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Smoke inhalation from house fire killed St. Paul man

  • Article by: Nicole Norfleet
  • Star Tribune
  • March 31, 2014 - 9:38 PM

A 25-year-old man known by friends for his boisterous personality died of smoke inhalation after being trapped in a burning St. Paul home, according to an autopsy Monday.

The century-old house Dan Trabant shared with five friends caught fire Sunday about 5:45 a.m. His roommates and a guest escaped the flames, but Trabant was pulled from the second floor by firefighters and died Sunday afternoon at Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Lee Mintz, 20, whose parents purchased the home at 1410 Van Buren Av. in 2011, said he and Trabant lived together for about a year.

“Dan was a loud presence. He entered a room and he made sure everyone knew,” Mintz said, adding that Trabant would often crack jokes.

Trabant worked at MarketSource, an in-store sales service provider for Target Mobile, and went to Burnsville High School, Mintz said. Trabant loved playing video games and having friends over, he said.

“His main concern was not just about what was next but what was happening at the moment,” Mintz said.

Mintz’s father, Jeff, called the fire “a tragedy” and said their hearts “go out to Dan’s family.”

Authorities said the blaze was caused by a candle left burning after the residents went to bed; it ignited curtains in a second-floor bedroom. There were several smoke alarms in the house, but only one of them worked, said St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. Luckily, two people in the house woke up to the alarm and called out to the others.

At one point, the residents tried to fight the fire with water and a fire extinguisher but were unsuccessful. Four people went out the front door while two others went out through second-floor windows onto the front-porch roof before jumping to the ground.

“We don’t know why [Trabant] was unable to get out,” Zaccard said, adding that authorities may never know why.

One other person besides Trabant was taken to the hospital with minor smoke inhalation and was in stable condition Sunday, Zaccard said.

Zaccard said Trabant’s death, the second in the city so far this year, is a reminder that people should routinely maintain and inspect smoke alarms to make sure they are operable. If it’s possible when building a home, homeowners should also add residential sprinklers, which when paired with smoke detectors give residents a greater chance of surviving a fire, Zaccard said.

Robert Humphrey, spokesman for the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections, said the building had a provisional certificate of occupancy, which made it legal to rent, but it hadn’t yet been inspected for a fire certificate of occupancy.

The city discovered the home to be a rental in 2012.

“Our goal is to have it inspected within a year,” Humphrey said.

But with a limited staff and a lot of rentals to inspect, there is a backlog, he said. Zaccard said the home had adequate escape windows for people to escape a fire.

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

Twitter: @stribnorfleet

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