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Fatal Garage Fire Blamed On Careless Smoking

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Authorities say the garage fire that killed a man on the east side of St. Paul Thursday morning was likely caused by careless smoking.

Don Pnewski, 53, was trapped in the fire that spread rapidly through the free-standing garage he was using as a home.

The fire broke out at about 2 a.m. on the 800 block of Juno Street. Shortly after they arrived the roof collapsed. St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said the blaze was not survivable.

Pnewski died from smoke inhalation, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner.

Zaccard says it is a violation of St. Paul city code to live in your garage. Had inspectors known, Pnewski would have been ordered to leave.

A half dozen friends said Pnewski had struggled for years with alcohol, that he had not worked a regular job  in years and spent much of his days drinking with friends. But all remembered him as a kind man who offered to do jobs.

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