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No cause identified for fatal fire in Farmington

The cause of a fire that claimed the life of a Farmington woman has officially been ruled as “undetermined.”

On Monday, Farmington fire marshal John Powers said the ruling was made due to the presence of more than one possible cause at fire’s site of origin.

The June 15 house fire started in a bedroom where 69-year-old Karen Fortman was sleeping. Fortman died in the fire from smoke inhalation and traumatic injury. Her husband, who was sleeping in a separate bedroom, was able to escape without injury.

Working with an agent from the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s office and an insurance investigator, Powers determined the fire started in or near or under the bed in the bedroom. But because there were electrical wires and smoking materials near the fire origin, Powers said, investigators cannot pinpoint which was the cause.

The insurance company had the option to pay for testing of the electrical materials found at the site, Powers said, but has decided against the testing.

“Since we’re not going forward with any testing, and there was more than one possible source, the cause is officially undetermined,” Powers said. “Sometimes if there are multiple possible causes in the area of origin and we can’t eliminate it down to one, we rule it undetermined. It’s just how the standards of investigation are written.”

Damage to the Fortman home is estimated at $240,000, Powers said. Of that, $180,000 is in damage to the property, the other $60,000 is damage to the home’s content.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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