NEW ULM, Minn. (WCCO) — Investigators in New Ulm have determined the cause of a fire at a bed & breakfast that killed 6 people.

The city fire department and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal have ruled the fire accidental, caused by unattended candles.

According to Deputy State Fire Marshal Becky White, candles have become the No. 2 cause of residential fires in Minnesota — behind cooking — and reflect a national trend.

“On average, a candle fire in a home is reported to fire departments every 30 minutes around the country”, said White. “Just a single little candle can cause so much destruction and people fail to realize that when they light it just because it’s nice to look at.”

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Steve Murphy Reports

The fire happened early July 2. The fire started on the north side of the front porch.

The fire killed 48-year-old Roberta Ann McCrea of New Ulm, her two daughters, 15-year-old Abby Gayle Wood and 3-year-old Savannah McCrea, 67-year-old Andrew Uhing of Hardington, Neb., 62-year-old Joseph J. Bergman of Centuria, Wis. and 59-year-old Dian Lee Bergman of Centuria, Wis.

Four other people managed to escape the fire.

After the fire, it was reported that house hadn’t been recently inspected and wasn’t licensed for guests. The establishment’s owner never intended for the main house to be a bed and breakfast so it was never inspected for paying guests.

At the time of the fire, officials said there was no way of proving whether a fire inspection would’ve saved the lives of the 6 victims.

Comments (25)
  1. la de da says:

    Anyone have a link to the previous story where all the “Shoot From The Hip” comments came from. EAT CROW!

    1. Mike says:

      What’s your point? It was an unlicensed Bed and Breakfast doing business illegally. Because candles were alleged to have started the fire does not equate to some sense of untenable liability on part of the home owner or the estate.
      You appear to be shooting at the sky for the sake of noise pollutionl

      1. saddened says:

        My question is this the boyfriend got out and never went back to try to get the kids or his girlfirend. And the people inside were screaming for minutes before they fire killed them. I would never leave the house without my kids EVER!!! Maybe he wanted to move on without them? Maybe he started the fire.Either way innocent people lost their lives and that makes me sad….

        1. The Architect says:

          The investigation showed the fire started from unattended candles. That would seem to preclude the arson/murder scenario you seem to be suggesting and even hoping for.
          You don’t know what you would do in a house fire, unless you’ve been in a house fire. Period.

          1. Yeah... says:

            So if I start the house on fire using a candle that will surely debunk any arson theories. Good tip…idiot.

            1. The Architect says:

              Hey “idiot” have you ever done an arson investigation? A candle used for arson is as obvious as the point on your head.

              1. Yeah... says:

                Ok fire chief, tell the the difference between a curtain that has started on fire by an unattended candle and one that has started by someone holding a candle. I am guessing you can’t. Position is irrelevant as you can position a candle anywhere and it has no mention in this article.

        2. llivesinnu says:

          I live in NU and believe you should keep your second guessing opinion to yourself. Can you imagine how this father feels he lost part of his family in this fire and I can beat he second guesses everything that happened that night. For you to have a holier than thou attitude to what happened and what he should have done is heartless. I like to imagine I wouldn’t leave my children in a fire either but did you ever think maybe he didn’t realize they hadn’t gotten out. Before you go and post your thoughtless opinions think about how you would feel if this were your family or someone in your family had to expericence this, you wouldn’t appriciate comments like the ones that have been posted and you just posted. it is always easier to second guess someone until you are in their shoes

          1. Owners were wrong says:

            No second guessing. The operators of the house were not licensed to run a B and B. Plain and simple. Had they not opened it up for that reason we wouldn’t be discussing this today.

            1. Nicole Warren says:

              You are wrong. The fire started because candles were left burning after a family dinner party. Running an unlicensed B&B did not start the fire. Candles started the fire. The fact that the dinner party was held in an unlicensed bed and breakfast is pertiinent only for the fact that three people unrelated to the family died in the fire. This type of fire would have started whether this had been a llicensed B&B or not. Minnesota has no state law against candles or against family dinner parties.

          2. Michelle Rosenthal says:

            Thank you for this post! People can be cruel and judgmental! “small town minds”

          3. Leah says:

            livesinnu- i completly agree with you 110%

        3. Please don't judge says:

          This is part of the article in the New Ulm paper: “Zangl had apparently fallen asleep watching the Twins game in the first floor TV room. He was awakened when Rodney Zimmer ran through the house shouting that the house was on fire. He had been passing by in a taxi when he saw the fire, and called 911. Zimmer told police he had entered the rear door, but was pushed out by heat and smoke only moments after entering. He only encountered Zangl.”

          Friends of mine were there, with the police and fire departments. Charlie did try to go back in the house, twice, he was stopped by police and firemen. The hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make. When you are awakened by somone yelling fire, your first instinct is probably to head for the nearest exit. I hope you never have to find out what you would do in the same situation…

        4. Leah says:

          You seriously have the nerve to say that about a family who lost so much in such a tradegy, I was partically close to this family and for you to say that charlie wanted to “move on” or that “he started the fire” you should be damn ashamed of have no idea what he is going through and i pray to god he does not read your comment. He loved bobbi, savvanah and abby VERY much…im saddened that there are people like you out there who have the nerve to say something so hurtful when you have no business to.

  2. candy says:

    So now the libturds will probably want to ban candles.

    1. repturd says:

      No, we want to ban candy.

      1. @repturd says:

        You owe me a new keyboard 😀

  3. Nugirl says:

    there is no way the Charlie would have done that! he was just like Bobbie. he would help anyone that needed help. i hurts to see how mean people can be! why cant people just be nice. bobbie would have never said no to anyone that needed a place to stay! i cant believe the nerve people have i really hope he doesn’t read this !

  4. M Ball says:

    Gee, I thought all fires were caused by smokers. That’s what the state said when they started requiring self-extinguishing cigarettes. When Oberstar refused the waiver for the Delta Queen to operate, he said he was concerned about safety and that he didn’t want another I-35 type tragendy (huh?). This depsite the fact the Delta had sophisticated fire suppression systems, alarms and a live 24/7 watch. When Oberstar said that, I thought about all the 100+ year old B&Bs operating around the country. They were never meant to be operated as a full time business and therefore operate outside normal health and building codes required by other hotels. They serve food without commercial equipment and licenses required by other places furnishing food to paying customers. Being licensed may or may not have required a sprinkler syste or fire escapes. I don’t know as I am not an expert on MN fire code. This was an accident waiting to happen, and at what a terriible cost. Two little girls, their mother and some people who were just there to enjoy the weekend. All gone. I think it’s time to quit pretending that people aren’t operating B&Bs as an occasional business. Most are operating full time as inns, but not complying with the codes required for that type of business. MN needs to apply innkeeper status to all B&Bs to avoid this type of tragedy in the future.

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