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Investigators seek cause of Empire Township fire

Investigation of an Aug. 11 fire in Empire Township is expected to continue through the weekend and into next week as fire officials try to identify a cause.

On Friday, Farmington fire marshal John Powers said he is working with the Dakota County Sheriff's Department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal's department to determine whether the fire was accidental. On Friday, an electrical technician was brought in to examine the wiring and determine whether that was a factor in the fire, which caused more than $1 million in damage.

The fire was at a home at the 3200 block of 220th Street in Empire Township, the former home of developers Bill and Maureen Johnson. The home is now owned, according to Dakota County property records, by Tootaram and Devi Doobay. Built in 1983, the home's estimated 2008 value is $727,200, but was for sale with an asking price of $899,900 according to the Edina Realty listing.

The extensive damage -- which includes the collapse of sections of the main level and upper floors -- is hampering the investigation, Powers said Friday, as the building is not structurally sound.

However, since all fire departments cleared the site around 9 p.m. Wednesday, Powers has been back to the home several times. While he is close to locating the fire's origin, the cause has left questions. Powers is not ruling out arson at this time. Samples from various areas of the home and are being analyzed, he added.

Farmington firefighters were called to the Doobay home around 11:40 a.m. Wednesday. Because it is located in the township, water had to be transported to two large temporary tanks. Local firefighters had to wait to begin a full attack on the blaze until they could get assistance from other communities, both in the form of additional fire fighters, and in tanker trucks.

Emergency crews on the scene included the Farmington Fire Department, as well as trucks and personnel from Cannon Falls, Hastings, Lakeville, Randolph/Hampton and Miesville. Powers indicated he may call on additional communities for help. The Minnesota State Patrol and Dakota County Sheriff's Department are handling traffic detail. ALF Ambulance was also on the scene.

No one was injured during the fire.

We will update readers as more information becomes available.