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Duplex fire nearly kills Detroit Lakes man

Five people escaped a large duplex fire early Tuesday morning with two suffering injuries, and a 5-month-old white lab still missing.

Detroit Lakes firefighters responded to the call at 4:40 a.m. and found the house, located on County Highway 29 near Cotton Lake, engulfed, Fire Chief Dave Baer said.

"Everyone got out, but we were very close to having a fatality there," he said.

The fire was apparently caused by some electrical wires in the basement apartment's ceiling, Baer said, citing an initial investigation.

All five occupants were able to escape the fire after battling with the smoke that filled both apartments within minutes.

Ruth Biel and her 18-year-old daughter, Chelsea Poser, were sleeping in the upstairs apartment when they were awoken by screaming 30-year-old Bridgette Eastman, who lives in the basement apartment with her family.

Eastman, Biel's second daughter, was trying to get everyone out including her own 7-year-old daughter, Allyssa Eastman-Haluptzok, and her boyfriend, 29-year-old Paul Haluptzok.

Eastman was having a hard time waking up Haluptzok, so she left the burning basement apartment to meet her mother upstairs, went back in to get her daughter out, then tried to return to wake him up and get him out.

"The smoke and the fact that she went back in there a couple of times didn't do her any good," Biel said.

Eastman's asthma didn't help either, so Biel said she advised her not to go back into the apartment.

A panicking Haluptzok eventually woke up and was screaming because he was surrounded by flames and blinded by the smoke. Then somehow he crawled his way out of the house.

"He stopped screaming and we thought he was dead," Biel said. "And he miraculously appeared."

Both Eastman and Haluptzok were taken to Essentia Health St. Mary's for smoke inhalation, burns, cuts and bruises. Haluptzok was treated and released, while Eastman remains there under observation.

The timeline of events seemed fuzzy to Biel who said Eastman told her she was dreaming the house was on fire.

"All I know is that if it weren't for her, we'd all be dead," Biel said.

The duplex is a total loss and the family is now staying with friends and relatives until they make other arrangements.

Baer said although an initial investigation claims electrical wiring as the cause of the fire, the state fire marshal will release the final investigation.

"I'm just grateful to God that we're all still alive and I hope somebody finds that puppy for my granddaughter. She doesn't even have a toy," Biel said.