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Deadly Edgewater condo fire was smoking-related

The fire that claimed one man's life started in the Edgewater Condominiums Saturday afternoon, around 2:30 p.m. Kaysey Price / Tribune

Initial Minnesota State Fire Marshal reports are saying the Edgewater Condominium fire cause was smoking-related, and the incident will be classified as an accident.

The preliminary report does not specifically state whether the fire was caused by a cigarette, cigar, or other smoking apparatus, and authorities are still waiting to hear an official report from the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office regarding the cause of death for William McGrath, the 72-year-old resident who died in the fire.

The initial report from the Detroit Lakes Police Department stated the fire began around 2:30 p.m. in the living room of a fourth-floor unit that belonged to the deceased. From there, Detroit Lakes Police Chief Steve Todd said smoke quickly overtook the entire floor.

"Smoke was very thick on the fourth floor," said Police Chief Steve Todd, adding that due to the toxicity of the smoke, the initial responding officers had to back off and wait for the firefighters who arrived shortly thereafter wearing proper gear and masks.

Emergency personnel worked to evacuate the building, while firefighters from the Detroit Lakes Fire Department, assisted by the Audubon Fire Department, extinguished the flames.

Once the flames were out, the emergency crews discovered McGrath's body in his living room. McGrath lived in the unit with his wife, who was not home at the time of the fire.

As for the extent of the damage, the condominium is set up much like an apartment building, with roughly 10 to 12 units on the fourth floor, most of which were damaged by smoke, said Todd.

On Saturday, the American Red Cross and Salvation Army assisted with providing housing and assistance to the displaced residents of the condo building, many of whom are still displaced, according to Assistant Fire Chief Todd George.

"I spoke with the building manager Sunday, and they were letting floors one, two, and three come and go," he said. "The fourth floor, they were locking down until they could get smoke clear."

George said he wouldn't categorize anything as a total loss, but he said the unit where the flames originated from, which is on the east end of the building, had extensive damage.

"There was some fire damage, some radiant heat damage, and also some smoke damage," said George, adding that a few other units on the east end also saw extensive smoke damage, but the rest of the floor seemed only moderately damaged by smoke.

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