When call came in, house was fully engulfed

By Barbie Porter


When the call to duty for firefighters came just after 2 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 22, about a dozen members from the Frazee Fire Department  leaped out of bed and headed for the fire hall. While the reaction was swift, by the time they arrived the house was fully engulfed and one person lost their life. The name of the individual has yet to be announced by authorities.

At about 2:12 a.m. the Becker County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a home on fire at 36235 Hubble Pond Road in Rochert. According to the Becker County parcel information, the property owner is Wes Stalborger, and the house was owner occupied. Stalborger purchased the property in November 2020. The 1,480-square-foot house and the attached garage were built in 2001. The parcel information states the heat source was electric.

Fire Chief Joe Nelson said the call to dispatch was made by a neighbor who saw the blaze. By the time Nelson arrived, as one of the first on the scene, the house was fully engulfed. He said the crew began battling the fire and soon realized there was potentially a victim still inside.

Nelson said a vehicle was parked in the driveway and as firefighters made contact with the vehicle owner’s family and friends, no one had seen or heard from the person.

Nelson said once it was likely the individual was lost in the fire, the State Fire Marshal was contacted.  

“We have to continue to fight the fire before the fire marshal got there,” Nelson said. “But we do it while being mindful that everything might be evidence. We are careful to not disturb or move things.”

When the fire marshal arrived, the fire department remained on scene to assist in the investigation. A victim was located in the collapsed structure. 

It wasn’t until after 12 p.m. that Nelson left the scene. He estimated the Frazee Fire Department used between 6,000 and 8,000 gallons of water. The fire departments from Wolf Lake and Detroit Lakes were on scene and Nelson said they assisted in bringing water for the battle.

The freezing temperatures caused challenging conditions for the firefighters, as the flowing water turned the ground to ice. Nelson added the department also had to be mindful to ensure the hose lines and valves on the trucks did not freeze.

Also on scene were the Becker County Sheriff’s Office. 

“Everyone worked really well together,” Nelson said.