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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published March 25 2013

Two dead in Williston camper fire

WILLISTON, N.D. – Investigators are working to determine the identities of a man and woman who died early Monday after a camper that had been parked for less than a day just outside Williston caught fire.

The camper parked in the 600 block of Riverside Drive south of Williston was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, said Williston Rural Fire Chief Dave Benth. The fire was reported about 1:30 a.m.

A third person was in the camper, but he was able to escape before it became fully engulfed, said Sgt. Detective Caleb Fry with the Williams County Sheriff’s Office.

The man knew the victims for about two weeks but could not identify them, Fry said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials do not believe it is of a criminal nature, Fry said. Autopsies are expected to be performed today in Bismarck.

The camper, which had Idaho license plates, had been parked alongside Riverside Drive, which is outside of city limits near the railroad tracks, since about 6 p.m. Sunday, Fry said. The drivers had permission from the landowner to park there, Fry said.

The camper was parked near a power pole, which also caught on fire, Benth said.

The fire caused some issues with a MDU Resources transmission line, prompting crews to disconnect one substation Monday morning, said MDU spokesman Mark Hanson.

The Williston Rural Fire Department has responded to several camper fires in the past few months, Benth said. He said people need to use caution with additional heat sources.

“Campers and motorhomes are not intended to be lived in in subzero temperatures,” Benth said.

Williston city officials implemented a ban last fall on living in a camper in city limits outside of a designated RV park. They cited health and safety concerns among the reasons for the ban.

In Williams County, a moratorium on temporary housing makes it illegal to live in a camper unless a conditional use permit was obtained before the moratorium.

It was unclear Monday if such a permit had been issued for the site of the fire.