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Wendy Reuer, Published July 06 2011

UPDATED: Cause of Moorhead blaze prompting family's late-night escape likely to be undetermined

MOORHEAD – The cause of a house fire that displaced a Moorhead family of five late Tuesday will probably go down as undetermined, Moorhead Fire Marshal Rich Duysen said Wednesday morning.

An investigation has ruled out an electrical cause, Duysen said. Homeowner Ben Sorenson had said he suspected his air conditioner may have caused a problem.

“It may have been an accidental or intentional (cause),” Duysen said. “We just can’t rule out either one.”

The cause remains under investigation.

The fire started on the living room floor near a sofa. The main body of the fire was confined to the living room, but smoke damage was noted throughout the home, Duysen stated in a news release.

Sorenson’s golden retriever was found deceased in the home’s bathroom, he said.

Smoke detectors may have saved the lives of Sorenson and his four children after the fire broke out while they were sleeping in the home at 1017 6th Ave. N. Fire crews responded to the blaze just before 11 p.m.

Sorenson tried to hold back tears outside the home Monday night, as fire crews searched for his dog.

He said he and his children had just returned home around 6 p.m. from a long weekend at the lake. They were sleeping when a central fire alarm system he installed woke them up.

“I got my kids out; that’s all that matters. It’s just my dog now,” Sorenson said.

Sorenson said he got his children – two girls and two boys who range in age from 3 to 7 – outside through a window. He said they had been watching television in his main-floor bedroom at the rear of the home when they fell asleep.

“I just saw the floor was glowing orange in the hallway,” Sorenson said.

He ran to a neighbor’s home across the street and called 911.

Sorenson said the fire seemed to be coming up from the basement.

Heavy smoke damage could be seen from outside on the main and second-floor levels.

Fire Marshal Rich Duysen said at the scene that fire crews were still trying to determine what may have caused the fire. He could not yet estimate the extent of the damage.

“We’ll continue the investigation throughout the night,” Duysen said.

Sorenson said he believed his home was a total loss.

Sorenson said the family had not cooked in the home, and he smokes, but always outside.

Sorenson said he was not injured, although his oldest son received a cut from exiting via the window.

The Red Cross and Salvation Army were on scene.


Reporter Mike Nowatzki contributed to this article.