Father says lack of heat led to Minneapolis duplex fire

Minneapolis firefighters
Firefighters at the duplex where a fire broke out early Friday, Feb. 14, 2014 in Minneapolis.
Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP

The father of the five children who died in a North Minneapolis duplex fire earlier this month says he used the oven and a space heater to compensate for broken radiators in the unit.

Troy Lewis said several of the electric baseboard heaters on the second and third floor of the duplex didn't work at all, including the ones in his children's bedrooms.

"They would always come down like little Egyptians with all their little clothes wrapped around them," Lewis said. "You'd see their little face with in the clothes over their head, with runny noses."

Lewis says he repeatedly complained to his landlord, but the radiators were never fixed.

Landlord Paul Bertelson says Lewis never raised any concerns about the heat.

"We monthly are going around to our units and checking in, and I had no conversation with him in his tenancy about baseboard heaters not working," Bertelson said.

Bertelson, whose company owns about 20 rental properties in Minneapolis, says a licensed electrician installed the heaters in 2009. A city inspection last year found no problems with the apartment's heating system.

Investigators have been unable to pinpoint the cause of the blaze, but they believe it originated in the same area where the space heater was running.

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