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Mike Nowatzki, Published September 26 2009

Fatal Fargo fire started after stove burners left on

Two electric stove burners left turned on high were blamed Friday for a south Fargo apartment fire that killed a 27-year-old man earlier in the week.

The victim, identified as William Ross Nelson, lived in Apt. 306 at 1522 East Gateway Circle S., where the fire was reported at 11:10 p.m. Wednesday, Fargo police Sgt. Mark Lykken said.

Investigators found the front and rear burners on one side of the stove turned on high, fire Capt. Randy Weiss said. A kettle containing water and macaroni sat on the front burner, with nothing on the back burner, he said.

“It appeared like he was boiling macaroni,” he said.

A dishtowel and plastic toaster sitting near the burners likely caught fire from the heat, he said.

Investigators believe Nelson tried to put out the fire because they found the toaster in the kitchen sink with water turned on running over it. A witness who reported the fire from the parking lot reported seeing Nelson trying to open a window or door to vent the fire, Weiss said.

Plastic ceiling tiles in the kitchen likely contributed to the quick spread of the fire, Weiss said, estimating the blaze reached temperatures of 900 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The victim was found in the hallway outside his third-floor unit.

The building’s 18 apartment units were evacuated. Tenants were being allowed to retrieve belongings, but building manager Goldmark won’t allow them to stay in the building until its smoke alarm system and emergency lighting are fully functional, Weiss said.

“They’re thinking it will definitely be after the weekend,” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528