Propane furnace explosion sends rural Detroit Lakes man to burn center, destroys home

Ken Otte.jpg

A man from the Richwood area was seriously burned in a house fire early Saturday morning.

Ken Otte, 65, was taken to the Hennepin Healthcare Burn Center with burns to his neck, face and hands, according to his sister, Keron Weiler of Dilworth.

On Friday night, Otte had driven his son, Christopher, home to Hawley. He came home to a cold house and was attempting to light the propane furnace, Weiler said. On the fourth try "a flame appeared and exploded," Weiler said, burning him and causing the fire that destroyed his house and nearby shop. In spite of his burns, his first thought was to put out the fire, Weiler said. "He was trying to find a flashlight or a fire extinguisher and couldn't find either," she said. He walked to a neighbor's house in the Rock Lake area, but nobody was home, and he had to walk to another neighbor's house to find help. He was taken to the Burn Center in Hennepin County, she said.

Callaway Fire Chief Keith Heinlein said the house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived at the Otte residence. "He lost everything — it was a pretty bad deal," he said. Firefighters from Detroit Lakes, Frazee and Audubon all provided mutual aid. The fire was reported at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday, and firefighters were on the scene until 3:30 a.m. The house and shop were a total loss, Heinlein said.

One of Otte's two dogs, an older, mixed-breed, jack terrier-sized pooch nicknamed "Spike the Wonder Dog" survived the fire. A young pitbull-type dog named Jax was still missing on Monday.


On his Facebook page, Chris Otte said that his father was in a lot of pain "because of the horrible burns he suffered. We still don't have a clear outcome from his wounds, other than he will need extensive wound care and skin grafts."

He added: "He's been my personal care assistant for awhile now because I've been in a wheelchair as a paraplegic since 2014. I have other family members who have been able to help by stepping into his role to take care of me. My dad has always been the type of person that would help someone in need without expecting something in return. He has a long undetermined road ahead of him and he will need help with medical bills, transportation and clothing. His house and everything in it is a total loss."

A GoFundMe page, the Ken Otte House Fire Relief Fund, has been set up online to help with medical expenses and other needs.

The link is

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