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Family mourns Fargo mechanic’s death in fire

PELICAN RAPIDS – The father of Jesse Madson, the 30-year-old killed in a fire at a south Fargo apartment complex Saturday, received the tragic news in a phone call from Joshua Madson, Jesse’s 27-year-old brother.

“It’s been a struggle. They were really close,” Daniel Madson said Tuesday. “I don’t think there’s anything harder than losing a brother.”

“Or a son,” he added quietly.

The fire at 925 Page Drive also sent Angie Wentz, Jesse Madson’s fiancee and longtime girlfriend, to the Hennepin County Medical Center via air ambulance. It was confirmed Wednesday morning that she died. The fire also displaced 16 other residents from their 20-unit complex.

Madson’s parents and brothers were working Tuesday to finalize funeral arrangements. “It’s been kind of a crazy life, lately,” Daniel Madson said.

Daniel said his middle son was a “quiet, kind, very intelligent” fellow who had worked in Fargo at Kennedy Transmission since graduating in 2003 from Minnesota State Community and Technical College in Detroit Lakes.

The mechanic’s interests were outdoorsy. He loved to camp, canoe and ski, all interests that Wentz shared, said his father. He’d shared a love of baseball with Josh, and grown up fishing with his brothers and father, although he hadn’t gotten out fishing as much in later years.

Wentz had met Jesse six years ago when his mother was dating her father, Daniel said. The two had yet to set a wedding date when he died, but they had lots of other plans for the future.

“He thought they wanted to move to Homer, Alaska – though I’m not sure how serious they were about that,” Daniel said with a chuckle. “They talked about buying a house. He was getting involved with online sales, thought he might move into that full time.”

Daniel admits he would have preferred the couple stay closer to home here in the Red River Valley.

Investigators say the fire was caused by cigarettes igniting other combustibles. Smoking materials, along with cooking fires, are the most common causes of residential fires in Fargo, according to Fargo Fire Department public information officer Ryan Viergutz.

“I don’t know – were there working smoke detectors in the apartment?” asks his father. “Even if there were, there weren’t sprinkler systems. Not that there would be sprinkler systems in a single home, anyway.”

The funeral is set for 1 p.m. Friday at Cormorant Lutheran Church in Lake Park, Minn., with a public visitation beginning one hour before and a gathering at the fellowship hall set for after the funeral.

The ups and downs are taking their emotional toll, Daniel Madson said Tuesday, and “I’m not always this together.”

“I’ve been leaning on the Lord pretty heavily,” he said.

 Emily Welker, INFORUM

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