Western Minnesota toddler recovering in burn unit after falling into fire pit

Kevin Wallevand speaks with Alex Levenhagen, father to 20-month-year-old Troy who is recovering in a burn unit after he fell into a fire pit that had been extinguished for some hours. WDAY Photo
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — A toddler from Vergas, Minnesota, continues his recovery at a Twin Cities burn unit after falling into a fire pit. Troy Levenhagen is just 20-months old, and the accident happened hours after the fire was extinguished.

Alex Levenhagen attempted to comfort his son Troy while he laid in a hospital bed recovering from skin grafts on his hands Wednesday, June 24.

"The left one is substantially worse," Alex said. "But the right one is not good. He lost, completely... his pinkie, down to the last bone on his ring (finger) and the tip of his middle (finger)."

Troy is recovering at a Hennepin County Medical Center burn unit after a freak accident at their rural Vergas home where Troy fell into an extinguished fire pit.

In fact, Alex said the fire had been out for hours, and his son was just walking past it when the accident occurred during the early morning hours.


"He likes to play with sticks, he is a kid, you know, and he was out playing and he walked past it and saw the one stick that was laying in there and reached out for it."

Alex highlighted the family's fire pit's ring is tall to prevent flames from escaping, but caused his toddler to bend down to reach the stick.

"The (fire pit) ring is as high as his belly button. So when he went down, he put all his (weight) on that left hand and some on that right hand," Alex said.

Troy's left hand sustained significant damage as it supported his body weight on the fire pit's ring while grasping for the stick.

"His sister, who was within feet of him, grabbed him so he didn't roll in on his head," Alex explained.

Tuesday night before the accident, Alex explained his family did what many of us do, after a night around the fire pit; they went inside the house and let the fire burn out. He highlights now they realize they should have doused the fire pit with water.

"Coals are actually hotter than flames and (with) small hands, it's like if you took a blow torch to a Cheetos, it is going to instantly burn straight through," Alex said. "We figured that the temperature of the coals was probably somewhere between 600 and 700 degrees."

While the family is worried about Troy's recovery, Alex describes Troy as a fighter. He has spent his short life persevering, first as a preemie baby, now at the burn unit where he has been healing since memorial day. It is hoped he can be released from the hospital within weeks, but Alex's young son faces months of rehab ahead.


The Levenhagen family has set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for Troy's recovery.

"He is a happy kid, he's always happy," Alex said.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Troy has few visitors, but Alex has stayed with his son during his entire treatment.

Today, Alex just wants to spare others from the emotional trauma his family is going through.

"The big thing that we want to stress is that if people are out, and they have a fire, to wet (their) fires down and restart them again later," Alex said.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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