MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s been a devastating year for house fires across the state.
At least 62 people have died in Minnesota. That’s the most in 15 years.
That number includes the loss of 29-year-old John White. His family’s home in Lakeville caught fire early Tuesday morning. White’s parents escaped, but he never made it out of the basement.
WCCO’s Reg Chapman spoke with White’s sister about her memories, and her warning for other families.
Melissa White says her brother, John, always had a smile on his face and made everyone around him feel special. He dedicated himself to helping others. She wants him to be remembered for the lives he touched and not as a statistic in a year where Minnesota’s fire deaths are near a recent high.
“It would be great if we had anything left of him in the house but it’s kind of all gone,” Melissa White said.
Melissa White says nothing but memories remain after a fire destroyed everything inside her childhood home.
“It’s weird because the day before it was Christmas, I was sitting on the floor joking around with John and our family and there is a fire in the fireplace and TV, cooking in the kitchen and to go back and the bar stools in the kitchen are melted and there is nothing anywhere. The basement we couldn’t even go down, that’s where he was and everything is melted and destroyed,” White said
Melissa’s parents made it out of the burning home. Her brother, John, did not.
“We lost a very creative and intelligent person and we can’t bring him back,” Melissa said.
Melissa says her brother had an infectious smile, he was very social and had a way with words.
“He always knew what to say even if you didn’t know what you needed to hear. He knew what to say,” Melissa said.
The investigation into John’s death is not complete. Melissa believes it had something to do with a space heater.
“They’re not sure but they think that’s where it started, the space heater something happened,” Melissa said.
Melissa wants people to be aware of the little things that can cause big tragedies like space heaters, smoking and candles. She also wants to remind people of how precious life is.
“Don’t just tell your loved ones that you love them, physically go there, see them, hang out with them, spend the time with them and then tell them that you love them,” Melissa said. “Show them that you love them, don’t do it once a month, as often as you can.”
The state fire marshal says this should also serve as a reminder for all families to check their smoke detectors. John’s friends have set up a fund to help pay for funeral expenses. You can donate to their GoFundMe here.