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Sheriff: Space heater may have triggered fire that killed 3 in Aitkin County

Officials have identified the victims as 69-year-old Jeff Cleys, 55-year-old Michelle Cleys and their grandson, 6-year-old Grant Diehl, all of Deerwood.

DEERWOOD, Minn. — A space heater may have been involved in a fire that killed a couple and their young grandson in Aitkin County, sheriff's officials said.

The fire broke out in a trailer home early last Sunday in Wealthwood Township north of Lake Mille Lacs.

Authorities said sheriff’s deputies and firefighters arrived, and once the flames were extinguished, they located the three bodies in the charred debris.

Officials have identified the victims as 69-year-old Jeff Cleys, 55-year-old Michelle Cleys and 6-year-old Grant Diehl, of Deerwood.

The remains of two dogs were also located in the debris.

Space heaters cause about 1,700 fires a year nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Statistics say they are the culprits in 81% of fatal house fires caused by heat.

Here are some suggestions from the NFPA to lessen the danger of fire when using a space heater: 

  • Don't leave a space heater unsupervised, or sleep with one on.
  • Give your space heater space and stability: Make sure it's not touching anything, or could tip and start something on fire. 
  • Make sure you buy one with an automatic shut-off function: If the heater begins to overheat internally or tips over, the device automatically shuts off to avoid starting a fire. 
  • Never, ever plug a space heater into a power strip: A heating device can draw 1,500 watts of electricity, and while a wall outlet can handle that an extension cord or strip cannot.

 

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