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Detroit Lakes man charged with felony negligence in big downtown fire

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire started on the second floor west rear exterior wall, just below the man's bedroom window, where there was a wood pile and other vegetation and combustibles.

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Firefighters shot over 300,000 gallons of water onto a downtown fire in Detroit Lakes in September of 2021.
(Vicki Gerdes/Detroit Lakes Tribune)
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A Detroit Lakes man has been charged with a felony after sparks from a fire bowl on his apartment balcony allegedly caused a major fire in downtown Detroit Lakes on Sept. 10, 2021.

Taylor James Davis, 26, of Detroit Lakes, has been charged in Becker County District Court with Negligent Fires.

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Firefighters survey smoke rising from the Washington Square Mall in Detroit Lakes Friday, Sept. 10, 2021. <br/>
(Forum News Service File Photo)

According to court records, police officers on the scene determined that the fire started in an apartment above 814 Washington Avenue, adjoining the Washington Square Mall.

While they were notifying residents and evacuating the mall, officers were approached by Davis, who told them the fire may have started in his apartment. He explained to officers that he was burning boxes in a fire bowl on his apartment balcony. He watched the boxes burn until he thought the fire was out, then took a shower and left to go to the nearby bike shop. He didn’t pour water on the fire bowl before leaving it unattended, and later got a call from his aunt, who told him his apartment was on fire.

There were two adjacent apartments on the upper floor of 814 Washington Avenue. The fire caused the roof to collapse over most of Davis’ apartment, and part of the roof was missing from the adjoining apartment. An investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office determined the fire started on the second floor west rear exterior wall, just below Davis’ bedroom window, where there was a wood pile and other vegetation and combustibles.

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Davis’ fire bowl was located about 12 feet away, diagonally from the wood pile and combustibles. It was determined that winds blew hot ashes from the fire bowl to the wood pile area, which started on fire.

The flames from the wood pile and vinyl siding spread, burning upward into the soffit and fascia, and then into the void space between the ceiling and roof.

The fire itself, which was deemed accidental due to improper burning of debris, was contained to the original building at 814 Washington Avenue. There was fire damage on the second floor, and heavy water and smoke damage on the main floor.

The surrounding mall-owned units from the middle to north end sustained water and smoke damage. The two businesses on the ground floor of 814 Washington were seriously damaged, and a number of stores in the mall, clothing stores in particular, had to close temporarily to deal with smoke damage.

On Jan. 11, a remote hearing for Davis was set for Feb. 24 in Becker County District Court. Also on Jan. 11, attorney Matthew Spielman of Fergus Falls was appointed a special assistant county attorney for Becker County to prosecute the case.

Related Topics: DETROIT LAKESBECKER COUNTYFIRESBECKER COUNTY DISTRICT COURTCRIME AND COURTS
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