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'A long road ahead of us': North Fargo fire victim in burn unit; blaze ruled accidental

One adult and one dog were rescued by firefighters who entered the building through an egress window at 721 29th St. N. in Fargo. A fundraiser is now being held online for the family to help take care of hospital and home-rebuilding expenses. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Overheating electrical equipment coming into contact with combustible material caused a house fire that injured four people Sunday, Dec. 17, one of them seriously, according to Fargo's fire marshal.

The fire at 721 29th St. N. originated between a mattress and the east wall of the basement, Fire Marshal Ryan Erickson said Thursday, Dec. 21, ruling it accidental.

Meanwhile, the homeowner, Bette Seward, said Thursday night that her daughter, Jenny Seward, is in critical condition in the burn unit at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis with considerable damage to her throat and lungs and burns on her abdomen.

"We're going to have a long road ahead of us," Seward said.

Seward said she has no idea of the bills facing her yet, though an online fundraising appeal for the family was started on YouCaring.com.

"I've just concentrated on Jenny. I will deal with all that when I get home," Seward said, encouraging people to "just keep Jenny in their thoughts, that's all."

Seward, her voice quavering, thanked police, fire and ambulance personnel who rushed to the scene about 8 a.m. Sunday.

"They saved Jenny's life. If they hadn't got there as fast as they did, Jenny wouldn't have made it," the mother said.

According to Seward and Battalion Fire Chief Bruce Anderson:

Seward's other daughter, Lisa, her longtime boyfriend and their 2-year-old child had escaped the home and were outside when fire crews arrived.

Jenny Seward was in the basement of the burning home and was rescued by fire crews who entered an egress window.

Firefighters also rescued an unresponsive dog and were able to revive the animal outside.

Jenny Seward was initially taken to Sanford Hospital and later transferred to the Minneapolis hospital. A Fargo police officer was treated and released for smoke inhalation while he was assisting fire crews outside.

Damage to the home is estimated to be $120,000.

As of Thursday night, $625 of a $25,000 fundraising goal had been raised for the family.

Seward added that she has been overwhelmed by the generosity of people who have donated clothing, furniture, dishes and other household items, as well as a shed to store the items until the family is back in their home.

"People have been just great. I have never seen nothing like it," she said.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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