Christmas Eve garage fire

A fire destroyed a detached garage near the shore of Upper Prior Lake on Christmas Eve, Friday, Dec. 24. No injuries were reported.

A fire near the shore of Upper Prior Lake destroyed a detached garage belonging to a former Prior Lake mayor and damaged a neighboring house on Christmas Eve.

The Prior Lake Fire Department responded to the scene on the 3400 block of Sycamore Trail at approximately 3 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 24.

Fire Chief Rick Steinhaus said firefighters extinguished a detached garage that was engulfed in flames and caused light damage to a neighboring home.

The garage is owned by Wes Mader, a former Prior Lake mayor.

"There was no damage to Mr. Mader's residence but the neighbor's house sustained very light damage from the heat," said Steinhaus.

Steinhaus said the garage and its contents are a total loss and the cause of the fire is under investigation by the State Fire Marshal. No injuries were reported.

Mader told the Prior Lake American he suspects the fire was caused by a portable space heater he was using while working inside his garage.

"I was in the garage working and I had a space heater to take the chill off the garage and I was trying to start my ATV so I could move it to where I can put a plow on it to get ready for the snow blow outs," said Mader. "From what happened, it's obvious there was some gas fumes on the floor and all of a sudden the fumes ignited. In my mind the space heater ignited some gas fumes in the car."

Mader said he attempted to put out the fire himself but the fire quickly progressed.

"The fire progressed pretty rapidly. There's nothing left of the garage or the stuff inside," said Mader. "I was working in the garage alone and I had the garage doors up as I always do when I'm planning on starting a vehicle so I was able to get out of the garage quickly.

"I went to the house to get a fire extinguisher thinking I could still put it out but by the time I was able to do that the fire was at the point it was not safe to go back into the garage," Mader added.

Steinhaus said it's important to keep safety tips in mind during the winter season when using portable space heaters.

"The most important thing with space heaters is keeping them away from combustible items like clothing and curtains as well as fuels," he said.

Other safety tips to remember include:

  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.
  • Keep children away from the space heater.
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

Several agencies responded to the fire including Mdewakanton Public Safety, Prior Lake Police Department and Allina Health Emergency Medical Services.