Student who Died in House Fire Identified

A University of St. Thomas student died early Saturday in a house fire east of the St. Paul campus, and three other people escaped by jumping from second-story windows.

Michael Larson, 20, a sophomore from Woodbury, died in the 3 a.m. fire at 1795 Selby Ave. The other three people, two of whom were St. Thomas students, were taken to Regions Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor injuries.

St. Paul Fire Department and St. Thomas Public Safety officials said the students had been watching television before going to bed around 1:45 – three went upstairs and Larson stayed on the living room couch.

Smoke detectors went off in the house and the first call came into the fire department from a neighbor at 3:12 a.m., Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said. Firefighers arrived four minutes later and found the front of the house fully engulfed in flames.

The three people upstairs didn’t believe they could make it downstairs because the smoke was too thick, so they jumped out of second-floor windows and went to a neighbor’s home before firefighters arrived. They broke down the front door and found Larson on the first floor, but he was dead at the scene.

Zaccard said a preliminary investigation indicates the fire started on the enclosed front porch, and arson is not suspected. The house, which suffered extensive damage, was not required to have a residential fire sprinkling system, he said.

Jane Canney, vice president for student affairs, called the incident “a tragedy which the entire St. Thomas community shares. … Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael’s family at this time.”

Father Erich Rutten, director of Campus Ministry, will lead a prayer service for Larson at 6 p.m. today (Saturday) in the lower level of the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. Canney said St. Thomas counselors will be available to students today in the Dean of Students Office, 101 Murray-Herrick Campus Center, and throughout next week during final exams.