The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 7, 2014

City says New Ulm house in fatal fire not inspected

Owner denies city's accounting

NEW ULM — The apartment building involved in last week's fatal fire in New Ulm had not had a fire inspection in six years, according to city documents.

New Ulm officials said their records show they attempted to reach the owner once in 2012 and seven times in 2013 to schedule a fire and safety inspection. Landlords must contact the city to set up the inspection dates.

Darcy Moldan, 50, of New Ulm, died of injuries sustained during the Feb. 27 fire at 101 Center St. apartment building. Four people living in the apartment's main floor escaped without injury.

Inspector technician Ellwood Zabel, who conducts fire inspections for the city, said the building inspection department has regularly received the annual registration fee for the building. Zabel said the owner has not contacted the department for an inspection since March 2008.

The apartment building's owner, Patrick Herrley, 32, of Maplewood, denied the city's accounting. He said he was certain he had been inspected since 2008. He said he would dig up through his files and find supporting documentation. However, he did not respond to subsequent requests for further information.

Inspections fairly new

The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Minnesota Fire Marshal's office and the New Ulm Fire Department. As a result, it is unknown whether an inspection would have prevented the fire.

New Ulm passed a residential rental ordinance in 2010 and began inspections in 2011. The city performed fire and safety inspections prior to 2010. The ordinance mandates that residential apartments must register with the city each year and must be inspected every two years.

New Ulm building inspector Dave Christian said his department forwards information to the city attorney when a residential apartment repeatedly fails to meet compliance. He said no official criteria exist for when they will forward information.

He said the department rarely has compliance issues. He said the department has never forwarded a property that failed to obtain an inspection. He said they typically forward cases involving apartments that repeatedly fail to register with the city.

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