A Shoreview woman was found dead on Monday morning after firefighters forced their way into her smoky, fire-filled house.
Authorities were called to the 1000 block of Richmond Court about 8:18 a.m. when neighbors called about a burning tire smell. Lake Johanna Fire Chief Tim Boehlke said smoke was pouring from the eaves of the one-story house when authorities arrived.
Firefighters found flames throughout the first floor and basement and Nancy A. Swanson, 60, dead about 10 feet inside the living room, according to Boehlke and the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff's spokesman Randy Gustafson said the fire appeared to be accidental. Where, when and how it started remained under investigation.
The oven was on when firefighters arrived, and a hole was burned through the living room floor, Gustafson said. Swanson had also recently told family members that her furnace wasn't working properly.
The cause of death remained under investigation, but Gustafson said there were signs of smoke inhalation.
Swanson last spoke with family members about 5:30 p.m. Sunday evening. Gustafson said two neighborhood children reported seeing flames in Swanson's house later that night, but an adult checked and didn't see anything in the darkened house. Another neighbor reported a burning smell during the night, he said.
It's unclear if the fire started Sunday; Gustafson urged residents to report anything unusual as soon as possible.
Authorities said excessive amounts of debris and items inside the house obstructed their work. Firefighters had to cut holes in the front and back of the house to fight the blaze.
The fire had apparently been burning for hours and was smoldering when authorities arrived, Boehlke said.
Swanson had lived in the house since the mid-1970s and raised four children there, said neighbor Peggy Wedell. "She was a very bright, intelligent lady,'' Wedell said. She also said Swanson had some health problems and mostly kept to herself.
According to Wedell, Swanson earned a nursing degree a few years ago, but didn't appear to be working the last few months. She was a regular performer in the North Heights Lutheran Church Christmas pageant, Wedell said.
Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708