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Propane heater blamed for Wahpeton fire that destroys cars and garage

A propane heater being used to warm up a car engine started a fire that destroyed two vehicles and part of a garage here Thursday evening.

Firefighters were called to a vehicle fire at 5:04 p.m. at a row of apartment garages at 1201 3rd Ave. N. The fire had already spread to the garage when firefighters arrived, said Dale Rubish, Wahpeton fire chief.

"One of the residents' cars wouldn't start yesterday morning, and they had put a propane heater on it to try and get it warm so they could get it running, and it overheated the front end of the car ... and that got the car on the fire, then that spread to the whole building," he said.

The fire destroyed a 1999 Saturn and a 1999 Mercury Cougar and caused significant damage to a third vehicle, Rubish said. More than half of the nine-stall garage was destroyed, and the rest had significant damage, he said.

Rubish said the resident should have monitored the heater more closely and had a fire extinguisher handy.

"Good idea, just a bad result," he said.