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25-year-old son of Navy veteran dead after Red Wing house fire

Updated: November 11, 2019 05:51 AM

The city of Red Wing is reporting its first fire fatality in many years, according to Fire Chief Shannon Draper.

Red Wing firefighters responded to a residential fire at 8:19 a.m. Sunday along the 1200 block of Phelps Street. Once on scene, neighbors alerted them that the home was still occupied, likely by the adult son of the homeowner.

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Crews started "an aggressive interior operation," with firefighters simultaneously searching the home and putting out the fire. Crews reported encountering fire at the front porch and living room area, as well as heavy smoke on the first and second floors. It appeared the fire started in the living room, although the cause and circumstances are under investigation by the State Fire Marshal and Red Wing Police. 

A victim was found on the first floor within minutes of searching the home. Paramedics started administering first aid and took the victim to Red Wing Mayo Hospital, where the victim was pronounced dead. 

"This is a tragic event for the community," Chief Draper said. 

Darwin Christofferson identified the victim as his 25-year-old son Ocean Christofferson. When Darwin left for work at a nearby restaurant before seven Sunday morning, everything seemed to be fine, "he was in the living room sleeping on the couch when I left and firefighters found him laying on the floor in the kitchen."

Neighbors noticed the flames and one of them tried to rescue Ocean before firefighters took over.

"I went around the building and knocked on windows trying to wake him but the house was filled with smoke at that point already," Greg Cady said.

Clare Larkin said she went out front to pick up her newspaper, saw what appeared to be flames and ran inside to call 911. 

"Then I went to neighbors and pounded on some doors and said the neighbor's house is on fire and the windows just exploded."

Chief Draper said firefighters performed CPR on the victim, but he didn't survive.

"In my four years here as chief, there hasn't been a fatality."

Sunday afternoon, an American flag was posted in the Christofferson's front yard. Neighbors wanted to make sure everyone who passed the home on the 1200 block of Phelps Street recognized a Veteran lived there and understood the family's loss. 

Darwin Christofferson spent nearly 30 years in the Navy. He retired and settled in Red Wing, where he oversees the American Legion and works at Liberty's Restaurant, along with his youngest son, Ocean.

Instead of hosting Veteran's Day events to honor military families, Christofferson choked back tears as he said he'll be at the local funeral home planning his son's burial.  

A GoFundMe has been set up to help the family. A link can be found here

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KSTP & Beth McDonough

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