A 37-year-old philosophy professor is being treated in a Minneapolis burn unit for smoke inhalation after waking up to find a fire in his trailer early Tuesday morning.

Kurt Dershem was living in the 17-foot travel trailer parked at a house he owns at 2027 N. Fourth St. The trailer was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrive at the residence at about 2:15 a.m.

“He got out on his own,” said Don Lehne, acting commander for the Mankato Fire Department. “He’s wasn’t sure how he woke up, but he did and he was able to get out.”

Dershem was in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center Tuesday afternoon. He was recovering in the burn unit there after being transferred from Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in Mankato.

Two dogs, Macky and Kia, were killed by the fire, which caused an estimated $25,000 in damage, a city of Mankato news release said. A tenant who lives in the house at Dershem’s property, Jeff Everest, said Dershem’s pet cat was able to escape the blaze.

Everest’s roommate, Nick Braam, called 911 to report the fire after Dershem was able to get out, Everest said.

The small camping trailer had both electric and propane heaters, Lehne said. The fire remains under investigation, so it wasn’t known Tuesday whether the fire was caused by a heating source or something else.

There was a smoke detector inside, but Dershem told firefighters he wasn’t sure if it was working, Lehne said.

Dershem is a philosophy professor at South Central College. Everest was a student and has known his landlord for about three years. He said Dershem is an environmentalist who owns several rental properties in the Mankato area and occasionally moves his trailer to different locations.

“He’s a real, real nice guy,” Everest said. “I’m planning to go visit him at the hospital with another professor.”

On his “Meet Your Instructor” Web page on the SCC site, Dershem said he lives in Mankato with a “menagerie of animals (multiple dogs, cats and ferrets).” His interests include environmental ethics, popular culture, eating ethnic food and music.

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