This week, Twin Citians mourned the loss of three lives in a north Minneapolis house fire.
Taneisha Stewart lost her three children in the Saturday night fire — Laborious, 6, Latora, 5, and Latorianna, who was about to turn 2. The family had just moved into the rented home earlier that day.
As with most accidents caused by human error, their tragic deaths could have been prevented. Though the specific cause has not been determined, officials say the fire started near a stove that was being used to heat the home because the regular heating source didn't work.
Officials say it's unclear why the gas service had not been turned on in the rental home, located in the 2700 block of Penn Avenue N. A city ordinance requires residential building owners to provide a functioning heating source that can be maintained at a minimum of 68 degrees between Oct. 1 and April 30.
Landlords who are unable to meet that requirement should not allow tenants to occupy their properties. Yet Stewart and her children were allowed to move in last weekend — before the gas was turned on and the furnace was operating.
Her landlord reportedly had plans to fix the furnace this week. When a tenant reports a heating problem to the city, housing inspectors, at their discretion, may allow a "reasonable'' amount of time for repairs. In the meantime, however, the owner still must provide an alternative approved heat source — typically, a properly functioning space heater.
When alternative forms of heating are needed, they must be used safely. Officials emphasize that stoves should never be used to heat homes. Leaving an oven door open to provide heat increases the risk of igniting a fire or, in the case of gas stoves, releasing carbon monoxide.
Space heaters can also be dangerous, and users should be sure to follow manufacturer's guidelines and never place items within a 3-foot radius of a heater.
This is National Fire Prevention Week, a time when officials encourage people to review and practice fire safety in their homes and workplaces. For tips on preventing fire-related fatalities, go to the National Fire Protection Association website at nfpa.org.