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North Shore resort fire accidental, report says

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Mike Creger

Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- The June 8 fire at Bluefin Bay Resort in Tofte has been ruled accidental in a report issued Tuesday by the State Fire Marshal’s Office in St. Paul.

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The fire, which damaged six rental units at a loss of $1.5 million, was caused by a lack of clear space in a chimney chase, investigator James Iammatteo stated in the report.

Code requires at least 2 inches of clear space between the flue and combustible materials like wall studs and insulation.

Owner and general manager Dennis Rysdahl said Bluefin has been in the process of updating its chimneys in recent years. About half of the 70 units at Bluefin were updated before the fire under a four-year replacement plan. That plan has been stepped up, Rysdahl said, by a “correct order” from the fire marshal’s office. Old chimney systems are being examined and outfitted with an extra sleeve around the flues, Rysdahl said. That will add even more space to protect flammable material. The resort has 90 days to comply with the order.

Rysdahl said he thinks the cause of the fire was insulation on a sloped roof sliding and nestling too close to a flue.

Rysdahl said repairs on the first of the damaged six units should be done by mid-September, and all the units should be done by Oct. 1. There are 70 units at Bluefin.

The fire was reported to emergency responders at 12:30 p.m. June 8, and renters were cleared from condos adjacent to the 46A and 46B adjoined units. The report says renters in the lower unit had trouble getting a morning fire going in the fireplace due to wet wood. They left the unit and apparently a fire later ignited in the fireplace.

Upper units that were damaged sustained fire damage in the roof space and ceiling along with smoke damage. Lower units also had smoke damage and water damage from the firefight. Most of the exterior was intact except for the roofline and some windows broken for ventilation. There was no fire damage near the fireplaces in either of the No. 46 units.

Iammatteo said it was difficult to determine which chimney chase suffered a failure, but the only fireplace lit that day in the area was from 46A. Guests at the resort alerted staff members of smoke in the area just after noon. Two employees went into the No. 46 units to look upstairs and downstairs. One found an active fire in the fireplace of the lower 46A, the one that its guests assumed was out when they left.

No one was hurt in the fire.

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