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Minn. lodge fire investigation highlights past fire code violations

Authorities said it is too early to determine if the violations had a part in the Lutsen Lodge fire

Historic Lodge Burns

Firefighters battle an overnight blaze that destroyed the Lutsen Lodge on the North Shore of Lake Superior, early Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024, in Lutsen, Minn.

Edward Vanegas via AP

Associated Press

LUTSEN, Minn. — Minnesota regulators said Wednesday that a historic lodge destroyed in a fire had three unresolved violations from a recent fire code inspection, but it wasn’t clear if those violations played a role in the blaze.

A staffer at Lutsen Lodge on Lake Superior spotted smoke coming from electrical outlets in the floor of the lobby around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday. The employee made it out and no guests were checked in, but the lodge was destroyed.

A news release from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said the State Fire Marshal division performed an inspection in July and found seven violations. The agency said the property owner repaired four of them.

“It is too early in the investigation to determine if the three outstanding violations played a role in the fire,” the release said.

A message was left Wednesday with the resort.

The state said it is unclear when the investigation will conclude.

Lutsen, started in 1885, claims to be Minnesota’s oldest resort, with the lodge as its centerpiece. It is a popular destination for hikers, skiers and other visitors from the Midwest and beyond.

The main lodge was rebuilt after a 1951 fire. Lodge operators have pledged to rebuild again.

Bryce Campbell, owner of the Lutsen Lodge, told the Star Tribune in an email that he owes about $150,000 to several people who own cabins and condominiums nearby, fueling online speculation that he may have started the fire. Without prompting from the newspaper, he denied those rumors.

“My heart is broken, and I feel like I’m grieving a person,” Campbell wrote to the newspaper. “You have no idea what it’s like to lose such a big piece of your life (that) my mom and I were building together. ... It makes my broken heart hurt even more to focus on such absurd accusations.”

Jay Halverson, who owns a townhouse and a cabin near the lodge, told the newspaper that Campbell owes him about $30,000 in rental proceeds. Halverson said he was suspicious of the fire’s cause.