ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (KMSP) - Two people died in a fire in Alexandria Friday morning, marking the first two fire deaths in Minnesota in 2018. This comes after 10 people died in fires statewide in December, making it the deadliest month for fires since July 2011.
“It was just a really helpless feeling knowing they were in there and that, you know, there wasn’t really anything we could to do to help them at that point,” said Judith Young, a neighbor.
Young was already awake around 5 a.m. when she heard sirens approaching the Viking City Mobile Home Park.
“I came to my window and saw the flames, the police were here and I ran out because I knew a relative lived in the trailer next door,” Young said.
“The front part of the trailer home was completely engulfed,” said Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow.
Fire Chief Karrow said when crews arrived, they quickly determined two people were inside.
“They had two victims were taken out, one was put in the ambulance right away, and the other we did life-saving measures, CPR, while we were waiting for a second ambulance,” said Chief Karrow.
Both 49-year-old James Chandler and 59-year-old Rose Couillard were later pronounced dead.
While fire investigators haven’t determined an exact cause, they do know there were no working smoke detectors in the home.
“And so I just really started thinking about that really easily could have been me,” said Young. “I have smoke detectors, but I changed my batteries today because I thought I’m not taking any chances.”
Young told the police and fire chiefs she wanted to do more.
“She started a grassroots effort,” said Chief Karrow. “She’s like, 'we need to get all my neighbors and all the people in other trailer parks and single family dwellings,' and so forth to get smoke detectors.”
The Red Cross also got involved. Young hopes this tragedy leaves lasting lessons for everyone.
“To look after your neighbors, to care to be compassionate,” Young added.
The cause of the death of the two victims will be released by the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the exact cause of the fire.