The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 8, 2012

Update: Fatal fire discovered after electricity went out

NEW ULM — A 79-year-old woman is dead and her nephew is homeless after an early morning fire Saturday destroyed the woman's home south of New Ulm.

Mike Nichols said he woke up at about 5 a.m. and realized his electricity was out. Then he looked outside and saw his neighbors still had electricity.

"I went outside to find out why and that's when I discovered the fire," he said. "You couldn't see flames or anything, but you couldn't seen inside her house because of the smoke. It was hot enough in there that the glass was disforming, so I didn't even try to go inside."

Nichols' aunt, Dorothy Lee Nichols, was found dead inside her house at 11050 Shag Road by firefighters who responded to Mike Nichols' 911 call. She was living in a garage that had been converted into a one-room house. There was a bedroom on the second floor of the garage that she didn't use anymore, Mike Nichols said.

He was living in a mobile home next door. Nichols and his aunt shared water and electricity. The electricity is out and the water pump that was on the back of Dorothy Nichols' house was damaged, so even though firefighters kept his home from burning, he won't be able to move back in any time soon.

"To tell you the truth, I don't think I will be moving back," he said.

All that was left of Dorthy Nichols' house after the firefighters left Saturday morning was a charred pile of her belongings. Firefighters had to use a bucket loader to pull the garage apart so the fire could be completely extinguished, said Nichols neighbor Ron Janni. He said firefighters would put the fire down, but flames would come back through the roof again.

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