May 28, 2007

Fire damages second Franklin Township home in as many weeks

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

A second home in Franklin Township was destroyed by fire in as many weeks, but this time, officials believe the blaze was intentionally set.

“Somebody lit it,” Delano Fire Chief Bob Van Lith said, adding the incident on Wright County Road 16 south of Delano is still under investigation.

A resident of a development near the home called the fire in originally as a possible grass fire, Van Lith said. A sheriff’s deputy arrived on scene, and advised responding firefighters it was a structure fire.

The home has been abandoned for about five years, and is owned by Backes Companies, Van Lith said.

Backes Companies office assistant Dawn Slimmer said originally, when the company purchased the property, the home was rented for a short period of time, but no one had been living there for several years.

“It was all cleared out,” Slimmer said. “We were actually in the process of contracting to have it removed.”

She said there were several other outbuildings on the property that had already been removed, and that the house was the last one needing to go.

Backes, based in Brooklyn Center, has been developing for more than 25 years, and has additional developments in Watertown, Mayer, and Waverly. The Parkview Hills development was its first in Delano, and began in the early 2000s.

Van Lith said that while the fire two weeks ago on 90th Street at a home owned by George Fake, and the one owned by Backes are not related. He said there have been some other fires of suspicious nature in the Watertown area, and feels it may be related to some of those.

Carver County Chief Deputy Bob VanDenBroeke said there were fires just north of Watertown Feb. 2 and April 10, both on the same piece of property on Mill Avenue.

A developer also owns that land, and was preparing to rid the property of the buildings to make way for development.

He said that while both fires on the property were considered suspicious, there has been no one held accountable for either fire.

“The buildings didn’t have much value,” VanDenBroeke said. “But it’s the idea really. We’ve got two unsolved suspicious fires that are likely arson.”

Slimmer said there have been other situations where Backes has had to remove buildings from property it was preparing to develop, but the company has never ran into a situation like this.

Van Lith said the fire remains under investigation, and said the structure is a complete loss.

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