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Early morning fire kills one in Farmington

Local and state investigators are still trying to determine the cause of a fire the killed a Farmington woman early Sunday morning.

Karen Fortman, 69, died in an upstairs bedroom of the home she and her husband shared on Upper 182nd Street. Her husband escaped the fire and was treated for smoke inhalation and burns but later released from the hospital.

The entire upper level of the home was in flames when a neighbor reported the fire at 3:38 Sunday morning. Farmington fire marshal John Powers said firefighters had the flames under control within about 45 minutes.

At one point during the fire a personal oxygen tank exploded and flew out the window.

Firefighters found Fortman’s body as they were finishing their work at the house. They are waiting for an autopsy to determine a cause of death.

Powers believes the fire started on the main floor of the split-level house, but he and others have been sifting through the charred interior of the house in the early part of this week looking for a point of origin and a cause for the fire.

“Hopefully today we can piece the rest of it together: What, how, when,” Powers said Tuesday morning.

Investigators were able to talk briefly with Fortman’s husband, Powers said, but he was not able to provide any information about how the fire might have started.

This is Farmington’s first fatal fire in at least the two decades fire chief Tim Pietsch has been with the department. Powers said he hasn’t been able to find a record yet of when the city last had fire-related fatality.

The department planned a stress debriefing Wednesday to help any firefighters or other emergency responders affected by the death.

“We have something in place that will help those guys,” Powers said. “It’s better than trying to keep any feelings you have inside, because stress affects people differently.”

Powers hoped to have a better idea this week what caused the fire.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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