An annual safety inspection of the New Ulm inn that caught fire, killing six people, had not been conducted because the owner said the building would not be housing guests, according to a local fire marshal.
Additionally, city records show owner Roberta McCrea did not apply for a license to use the Bohemian Bed and Breakfast for lodging in 2011.
New Ulm fire marshal Ellwood Zabel said he inspected only the adjacent carriage house in December 2010 because McCrea said “she wasn’t going to be using the main house as a bed and breakfast.”
Authorities have not identified the fire victims, but family members say McCrea, her 15-year-old daughter, Abby, and 3-year-old daughter, Savannah, were among them. The owner’s fiancé and three other guests staying in the main house escaped. Four adults and a young child staying in the carriage house were not injured, according to police.
The three other victims, also identified by family members, are Joe and Dian Bergman of Centuria, Wis., and Andy Uhing of rural Hartington, Neb. Uhing’s wife, Sandy, jumped to safety from the second story. The Uhings’ son, Wilfred, tells the Star Tribune that his mother suffered smoke inhalation, burns to her right hand and a fractured vertebra in her back.
Joe and Dian Bergman were vacationing at the inn with the Uhings, their longtime friends, according to their son, Jacob Bergman of Centuria, Wis. The Bergman family lived in Nebraska before moving to Wisconsin about 20 years ago, he said.
Bergman said his parents, married nearly 38 years, farmed near Centuria in Polk County and also worked jobs off the farm. He says his parents were strict but fair in raising him and his brother and sister.
City records show inspection of the inn in two previous years uncovered problems that were corrected. Those corrections included moving a kitchen fire extinguisher from the stove and replacing batteries in smoke detectors. Zabel said when he arrived at the fire Saturday, he could hear smoke alarms had activated.
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