A couple died when a fire engulfed their mobile home in Alexandria, MN early this morning. Firefighters were called to the home, located in the Viking City mobile home park just before 5 a.m. and rescued Rose Marie Couillard, 59, and James Willis Chandler, Jr., 49 from the burning home. They were later pronounced dead.
— Echo Press (@echopress) January 5, 2018
The blaze was the first fatal fire in Minnesota this year and the first fatal fire in Alexandria in 15 years.
Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow told the StarTribune that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but that there were no functioning smoke detectors in the home.
“More fires occur in winter than in any other season,” said Fred Pritzker, a fire attorney who represents people who have been injured and families who have lost loved ones in fires.
Heating equipment is involved in one of every seven home fires and half of home heating fires occur during the months of December, January and February, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
MInnesota saw a surge in fatal fires during 2017 with 64 reported, a total that hasn’t been reached for 15 years. Among them was a fatal fire in Hibbing on December 26 that claimed the lives of four members of one family.
Steven Gillitzer, 67, and his wife Patricia Gillitzer, 63, and three of their grandchildren were all in the house located in the 200 block of 42nd Street E. when the fire broke out just after 1:30 a.m. Steven, a retired fire captain, got one of the children, Jonathan Steven Gillitzer, 8, outside of the house. He and Patricia died trying to save their other two grandchildren Anteus Adams, 3, and Todd Jacob Gillitzer Jr., 9, Firefighters were able to resuscitate Anteus and Todd. They were transported to hospitals where they later died.