UPDATED: 1 dead, 2 injured in Saturday apartment fire in Detroit Lakes

A 61-year-old Detroit Lakes woman was killed, and two other residents were transported with possible smoke inhalation, during an apartment fire in Detroit Lakes on Jan. 29. Firefighters were dispatched at 10:26 a.m. to a call of smoke at the 24-unit Pelican River Apartment building on Loring Avenue.

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Detroit Lakes firefighters roll up their hoses following an emergency call for an apartment fire on Loring Avenue in Detroit Lakes on Jan. 29, 2022.
(Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
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A Detroit Lakes woman died in an apartment fire in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, according to a Detroit Lakes Police Department news release. Two others were transported for possible smoke inhalation.

Kari Bishop, 61, was transported to Ramsey County Medical Center for an autopsy. Firefighters found her body after they extinguished the blaze, according to Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson.

On Jan. 29 at 10:26 a.m., Detroit Lakes firefighters were dispatched to the Pelican River Apartments, at 1265 Loring Avenue in Detroit Lakes, after receiving an emergency call about smoke in the building. The apartment fire seemed to be isolated to a first floor apartment, Swanson said.

"Upon arrival, we had heavy smoke coming out of the (first floor apartment) and right now we're still in investigation mode," said Swanson on the day of the fire.

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A fire hose sits on the frame of a broken window of a first floor apartment at the Pelican River Apartments in Detroit Lakes after an emergency fire call on Jan. 29, 2022.
(Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause of the fire, which is still under an active investigation.


Swanson described the scene as he first approached the building: "When I was coming down Corbett Road, I could see the smoke coming and it was not pizza, or popcorn, it was legitimate structure smoke," he said

The fire was extinguished after about five minutes of firefighters being on scene. They gained entry into the apartment that was on fire through an exterior window after struggling to gain access to the building from the front entry, said Swanson.

He added, "Obviously the alarm system, and stuff like that, we were able to get the early notification, so we were able to get here before (the fire) got into the walls, the ceiling, and that type of stuff."

He said many residents in the building did not immediately evacuate.

"We had a lot of tenants who didn't want to get out and figured it was just an alarm call," he said. "Unfortunately, in apartments, people don't like to get out because, 'It's an alarm call. It's an alarm call,' Well, this is why we have alarms, and people need to start listening to them and get out when they go off."

Residents of the apartment building were still displaced as of the morning of Monday, Jan. 31, due to smoke damage throughout the building. Members of the Becker County Emergency Response team and the Becker County Sheriff's Office are coordinating sheltering efforts for the displaced residents, but there was no current timetable for residents to be able to return to their apartments.

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Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson, center, speaks with other firefighters at the scene of an apartment fire on Loring Avenue in Detroit Lakes on Jan. 29, 2022.
(Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Becker County Sheriff Todd Glander said county emergency services provided the residents with resources and transportation to shelter, and Faith Lutheran Church and Community Alliance Church offered up their spaces to residents who needed it. In total, eight residents needed assistance with alternative housing; the other residents were able to make their own accommodations.

"My role with emergency management is we just found resources for what they needed, such as a warm place to stay," said Glander. "Once we found out that people were being displaced from the building, we had buses arrive on scene to give people a warm place to go."


The Salvation Army provided food at Faith Lutheran and the Red Cross secured housing for the displaced individuals, he said.

"Obviously, we can't have people going back into their rooms until they've been properly cleaned," said Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson.

Audubon and Frazee firefighting units also responded and assisted with extinguishing the blaze. Essentia Health St. Mary's EMS, Perham EMS, Sanford Lifeflight, the Salvation Army and the Becker County Sheriff's Office assisted with emergency efforts on scene, as well.

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