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Woman dies in house fire north of Cloquet

After a devastating fire Thursday night, almost nothing remains of the home and attached garage at 3912 Highway 33 North. homeowner Sharyl Nelson died in the fire. Jana Peterson/jpeterson@pinejournal.com1 / 2
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A 51-year-old woman who died in a devastating house fire north of Cloquet Thursday night has been identified as homeowner Sharyl L. Nelson.

St. Louis County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Wade Rasch said the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office in Ramsey, Minn., was able to positively identify Nelson through her dental records. The home and attached garage at 3912 Highway 33 were completely destroyed.

Rasch said Nelson lived with her husband in the home but he wasn't there when the fire broke out. The fire was reported by someone driving by on Highway 33.

"The flames could be seen from the highway shortly after 8 p.m.," Rasch said. Multiple fire departments responded to the fire, including departments from Industrial, Solway, Grand Lake, Culver, East Brevator and West Brevator. Cloquet Area Fire District — less than five miles away — was not called to the fire although they do have mutual aid agreements with all the fire departments in southern St. Louis County.

By 8:30 p.m., the flames were no longer visible from the highway, but a cloud of white smoke rose into the sky above the treeline. The home was located up a long driveway on the east side of Highway 33 North, about a mile north of the intersection with Morris Thomas Road and the East Brevator Fire Department building.

By the time the fire was extinguished, nothing remained of the home but a basement filled with rubble, a back deck with a table and chairs still sitting there and a tall fireplace chimney.

Sheriff's deputies recovered Nelson's remains at the scene about noon Friday, transported them to Ramsey for the autopsy and got the positive identification of Nelson on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, and remains under investigation by the Minnesota State Fire Marshall and the insurance companies.

"Because of the extent of the damage, they may never know what caused it," Rasch said.

Yellow sheriff's tape still surrounded the scene Monday, warning people away. Someone has added artificial flowers to the mailbox, which sits at the bottom of the drive along Highway 33.

The fire north of Cloquet Thursday was the second of three fatal fires to occur in the region over the past week: one in Hermantown at 3:17 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 2, in which the victim has yet to be identified but is believed to be the 87-year-old homeowner, and another 15 miles northeast of Duluth at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, where two people escaped but remains believed to be those of 52-year-old Jeffrey Sorvik were found.