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

(Continued)

According to Brown County records, Herrley purchased the apartment building in August 2007. He subsequently obtained a $77,000 mortgage on the property in September 2007.

Christian said the city discovered Herrley's inspections were not up to date last year. He said the department forwarded Herrley's record to the city attorney after the fire. He said he is unsure whether any further action will be taken by the city.

In July 2011, a fire at the Bohemian Bed and Breakfast claimed the lives of the owner and five other people. Zabel did not inspect the building prior to the fire because the owner told him the main building would not be used by guests. The main building was housing guests at the time of the fire.

The fire was caused by unattended candles. City officials said the cause would not have been prevented by an inspection.

Christian said the city has not changed any of its fire inspection policies since the Bohemian fire.

Owner regretful

Herrley told The Free Press he felt horrible about the fatal fire. He said he made safety a top priority with the building, especially because he lived in one of the apartments until September. He said he believes the building had no obvious safety issues prior to the fire.

He said he purchased the building when he obtained a job with MTU Onsite Energy in Mankato. He said he moved when he obtained a new job with Cummins Inc. in the Twin Cities. He said he considered the apartment to be an investment. He said he has never owned any other apartment building.

"It's extremely tragic. I never intended for this to happen. I feel terrible about the situation," Herrley said. "I don't feel like I was being negligent. I don't want it to be perceived that way."

According to the 2008 inspection report, city officials identified problems with combustible material in the exits and a need for more smoke detectors. The report indicates both issues were dealt with in a few weeks.

Herrley did not respond to subsequent calls for further comment.

The Minnesota Fire Marshal's office is expected to release its finding in the coming weeks.

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