Pine River couple dies in overnight fire

Family is receiving support from the community

house fire
Pine River firefighters search the scene of a fatal house fire southwest of Pine River on Tuesday morning, March 21, 2023.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

PINE RIVER — There was nothing Pine River firefighters could do when they arrived to the home of Barbara and Charles Norman early Tuesday morning, March 21, on the 3300 block of 40th Avenue Southwest.

The home and occupants were already gone.

"We were paged about 2:20 a.m.," Pine River Fire Chief Kraig King said. "We arrived to pretty much a burned down house already."

The Backus Fire Department and Cass County Sheriff's Department were also on scene. Over 20 firefighters responded. Many firefighters were sent home at around 8 a.m. while others either stayed or returned later in the morning.

"We were waiting on the fire marshal and he was more or less waiting for it to get light out," King said.


Throughout the course of the fire department's work, Barbara and Charles were located inside the house. King and the rest of his crew finally left the scene around noon.

Due to the extent of damage before the first units arrived and the complete destruction of the building, the fire's cause will be difficult to determine. At this time, no other official information is available.

"The fire marshal is doing his investigation," King said. "That's about all we know right now."

The Normans' daughter, Tammy Norman, and daughter-in-law, Carol Norman, kept friends and family informed through Facebook updates.

"My parents entered heaven tonight as the result of a catastrophic house fire. I have no words," Tammy wrote in a post accompanied by a family photo of her, brothers Brian and Chas, and their parents on their father's last birthday.

"What an incredible outpouring of love and support from family, friends, neighbors AND strangers today!" Carol wrote in a post, noting her husband, Chas, was trying to figure out how to get water to the cattle on that side of the road.

"Everything (power and water) was tied to the old farm house where Chuck and Barb lived," Carol wrote. "... We've got an amazing group of five guys workin' on it! We FEEL so held by our community!"

Facebook friends immediately responded with memories, prayers, support and offers to help with cooking and other duties as the family worked to put things together following their loss.


The fire was contained to the home and an attached single-stall garage. Both were completely destroyed.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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