A hometown newspaper with a local office, local owners & lots of local news

Woman dies after June apartment fire

A woman who was severely injured in a fire at Cloquet’s Larson Commons apartments last month has died.

Nancy Carlson, 70, was a tenant at the senior high-rise on Cloquet Avenue; the fire started in her apartment the morning of June 13.

The Cloquet Area Fire District responded to a 911 call around 9:30 a.m. June 13, for a fire and possible trapped victim. Upon arrival, CAFD crews forced entry into the apartment and found the residence full of smoke with zero visibility. Crews found and removed Carlson, then extinguished the fire. Carlson was treated by paramedics and transported to a Duluth hospital and later a Twin Cities area hospital with severe injuries.

According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, Carlson died on July 8 at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis of “complications of thermal injuries” — fire-related burns — and smoke inhalation.

Residents said it was common knowledge that Carlson smoked and also used oxygen to help with breathing. The fire district confirmed the fire in her apartment appeared to be smoking-related. Smoking is prohibited inside the Larson Commons building, a seven-story building with approximately 85 apartments. This was the second smoking-related fire in the building in recent years. The June 13 fire did not spread to any other apartments.

“Smoking is the leading cause of fire fatalities,” CAFD spokesperson Sarah Buhs said. “And smoking while on oxygen in a room is very high-risk.”

Funeral services for Carlson start at 12 p.m. Saturday, July 17 at Atkins Northland Funeral Home. Carlson was a 1969 Cloquet High School graduate.

“This is a tragic situation. We do not want anyone else in our community to suffer through anything like this,” Buhs said. “But you can help. We are asking family members and anyone in contact with older adult smokers to look in on them and help them be safe.”

Buhs, also the CAFD public education coordinator, offered other tips to prevent a smoking-related fire:

• Smoke outside and extinguish cigarettes in a sturdy ashtray filled with sand or water.

• Do not discard cigarettes in potted plants, leaves, mulch or other vegetation.

• Never smoke in bed.

• Do not smoke near medical oxygen.

• Protect vulnerable smokers and make sure they follow safety precautions.