A 38-year-old man never escaped the basement bedroom where he apparently started a fire while smoking a cigarette in bed early Sunday morning, authorities said.
The victim was a friend of the family who lived in the one-story home in the 700 block of Lexington Parkway N., all eight of whom escaped unharmed after hearing the basement smoke alarm sound about 7:45 a.m., said Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. The victim, who went by the single name of Guntoro and is from Indonesia, died of smoke inhalation, according to the Ramsey County medical examiner's office.
Zaccard said a family member tried to get to the basement bedroom to rescue the friend, but the flames stopped him.
Zaccard noted that careless smoking is the leading cause of fire deaths in Minnesota.
He said smoking items were found in the man's bedroom, which, like two other bedrooms in the basement, violated fire codes because they lacked large-enough windows for an occupant to escape a fire, Zaccard said. Fire investigators found three other smoke detectors in the home that were disconnected.
The single-family dwelling was built in 1951, according to Ramsey County property records.
The American Red Cross said it assisted the family of 5 adults and 3 children. The Red Cross provides relief for immediate needs such as shelter, clothing and emotional support.
Zaccard advised homeowners to make sure that bedroom windows meet fire codes, check smoke detector batteries and have a fire escape plan.
St. Paul firefighters also responded to another house fire later Sunday morning at a duplex in the 600 block of Charles Avenue. That fire was confined to the southwest corner of the building's lower level and started in a chicken coop attached to the lower unit. Paramedics treated one person for minor smoke inhalation at the scene, Zaccard said.
He said a lit candle was left in the coop to keep water from freezing for the four hens, all of which died in the fire. Firefighters received a call on the second fire about 9:40 a.m. Zacard said property damage was limited in the two fires because firefighters extinguished them within 15 minutes of the 911 calls. □