Garrett blaze leaves 2 dead

February 12, 2019

Two people died and one person was hospitalized because of a fire in downtown Garrett early Monday.

Garrett Fire Chief Ted Christensen said the fire began just before 12:45 a.m. in a mixed-use building at 109 S. Randolph St. The building has a secondhand store on the first floor and rental sleeping rooms upstairs, he said.

Seven people were living in the building, he said. Garrett residents said the building had once been known as Hall’s Sleeping Rooms but had not been called that for years.

The fire, which began in the living area, did the most damage to the rear of the structure, Christensen said. He said firefighters found heavy smoke and flames pouring from the second floor at the rear.

They went inside the burning structure to control the blaze, which did not spread to nearby buildings, Christensen said.

“It did run through the upstairs, but (firefighters) made an unbelievable stop. It was quite something,” he said.

The attached building to the south is a vacant movie theater.

The neighbor to the north, which at one time housed a heating and air-conditioning company, has first- and second-floor porches with wooden railings about a foot from the most extensive part of the fire’s visible damage.

A fire-charred roof and a small wooden deck and charred wooden steps could be seen at the rear of the building’s second floor early Monday afternoon, as could two boarded-up second-floor windows.

Visible damage to the front of the brick structure was minimal. A handwritten sign indicated the store is going out of business.

Christensen said firefighting help came from Auburn, Avilla, Corunna, Jackson Township, LaOtto and Waterloo.

No firefighters were injured, he said.

Names of the deceased and the cause of their deaths are to be released by the DeKalb County coroner’s office after families are notified.

The fire’s cause is being investigated by the state fire marshal, as is routine in fires with one or more fatalities, Christensen said. He added a state building code investigator also is reviewing the scene. Christensen was unable to say whether the building had code violations.

To his knowledge, those living there were doing so legally. 

Christensen was trying to determine the building’s ownership Monday afternoon.

Surviving residents escaped by the back and front stairways, police said.

Garrett Mayor Todd Fiandt said fire fatalities in the community are rare. He recalled one about 15 years ago in the same building and one in a home on Christmas Eve in 1997.

The latter fire claimed the lives of a mother and two children.

Garrett’s population is about 6,300. The small community “feels it deeply” when any lives are lost, Fiandt said.

State Rep. Ben Smaltz, R-52nd, Monday afternoon issued a statement offering his and his family’s condolences to the families of the deceased and injured and commending emergency responders.


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