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Fire kills two people in Roseau County

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

An elderly couple died Monday morning in a fire that engulfed their old farmhouse about two miles southwest of Roseau, Minn.

Terry Bandemer, chief deputy with the Roseau County Sheriff's Office, said certain identification of the bodies will require autopsies and the use of dental records.

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The sheriff's office isn't releasing the names yet, partly because he's not sure all the relatives had been notified by Monday evening, Bandemer said.

But neighbors say it's pretty clear it's a couple they know in their 90s who had lived in the house for decades.

A woman driving by saw the fire about 10:30 a.m. Monday and called 911, then drove to a nearby home for help.

"She saw it, then drove by my place," said Duane Paulson, who lives nearby. "I was doing my chores and she hollered at me to come over. She jumped in to my (Ford) Ranger, and we both went over there and went to the door. I kicked it in and tried to go in, but it was just so hot and so much smoke. You couldn't see and even if I could get in, there would not be anyone left."

A garage with the couple's car inside is separate from the house and did not burn, Paulson said.

"We weren't sure they were still in there," Paulson said of his first impressions on arriving at the burning house.

"The door was locked, and the door to his garage was always open, not locked and this time it was locked."

The couple's car was in their garage, he found.

After firefighters put out the fire, which had totally engulfed the house before they arrived, two bodies were found inside.

Paulson and his wife, Claree, kept a close eye on the older couple, keeping their driveway clear of snow, and even making tracks down their long driveway so that the elderly man with failing eyesight could make out the way to get into town.

The couple had lived in their home for many years and the house was nearly a century old, Paulson said. They had both a propane furnace and an older wood stove they still used regularly, Bandemer said.

A state fire marshal is investigating the fire, Bandemer said. There is no obvious cause for suspicion as to the origin of the fire, he said.

Roseau Police, the Minnesota State Patrol and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation also assisted in the case.

The Paulsons go to the same church in Roseau and saw the couple there on Sunday.

"They could still walk around pretty good and do different things," Paulson said.

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