Victim of Mpls. house fire was actor, activist

Family members say Adam Briesemeister died trying to save others in the house. Friends will honor him Saturday at Powderhorn Park.

Adam Briesemeister

The 25-year-old man who died this week in a blaze at a south Minneapolis house has been identified as Adam Briesemeister, an actor, substitute teacher and community activist.

Family members say Briesemeister died trying to save his friends when the three-story house they shared at 3500 Harriet Av. S caught fire early Wednesday. Briesemeister died of apparent smoke inhalation, the Hennepin County medical examiner's office said Friday.

On Friday afternoon, two days after his son's death, Wayne Briesemeister said he was overwhelmed by the kindness of his son's friends.

"There's such an outpouring of comments on his Facebook page," he said. "It's really enlightening and uplifting. I am just so pleased and amazed at the kindness of the people of Minneapolis."

Wednesday's fire broke out about 6 a.m. on the house's enclosed front porch, then spread. Its cause is undetermined. Firefighters found Briesemeister's body on the second floor and Sadie Norlin, 27, on the third floor of the house. She was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in critical condition, but her condition has since been upgraded to serious.

Fire crews used a ladder to bring two people down from the home's second story. Another person who lived in the house was not home at the time. A cat also died in the fire.

Briesemeister said that his son was born and raised in Racine, Wis., but that the family moved to Illinois, Colorado and Tennessee for Wayne's career. His son graduated from high school in Germantown, Tenn., and then cum laude from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with degrees in English and theater. Adam Briesemeister was also an Eagle Scout.

He moved to Minneapolis in 2008 as an actor for CLIMB Theatre, an Inver Grove Heights-based company that performs plays for schools to teach about a range of topics such as substance abuse and diversity. During his time in the Twin Cities, Briesemeister appeared in numerous productions including Hamlet for Theatre in the Round, "A Klingon Christmas Carol" for Commedia Beauregard and "You Should Be So Lucky" for Brazen Theatre.

He was also known as a community activist, participating in the Really Really Free Market, the Twin Cities Anarchist Bookfair and OccupyMN, among other organizations.

Briesemeister worked as a substitute teacher in the Minneapolis public schools to help make ends meet, but activism was his passion, said Wayne Briesemeister.

"He really believed that he could help make a difference in the world, and never stopped trying," his father said.

Friends will gather to remember Briesemeister at 3 p.m. Saturday at Powderhorn Park. There will also be a memorial celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Best Western Plus Milwaukee Airport Hotel & Convention Center in Milwaukee.

mckinney@startribune.com • 612-673-7329 nicole.norfleet@startribune.com • 612-673-4495 Twitter: @stribnorfleet

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