Structure fire

Rochester and Elgin firefighters, along with the Olmsted Sheriff's Department,  were called to a structure fire on 70th Avenue Northeast, north of Viola Road, Monday evening. (Ken Klotzbach/

A Stewartville man was airlifted to a Twin Cities hospital Monday evening after suffering burns in a fire at an abandoned house.

Fire departments from Rochester, Eyota and Elgin were called to the Olmsted County-owned site at the 4600 block of 70th Avenue NE in Haverhill Township about 6:20 p.m.

A passing motorist saw the abandoned house on fire and a person running from the building and called emergency responders.

The site, identified by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as the "Penz property," was obtained by the state of Minnesota from Calvin Penz in 2017 via tax sale. Olmsted County took ownership of the property last month, according to Olmsted County property records.

The property is identified by the MPCA as a brownfield site with multiple environmental hazards, including petroleum, solid waste and leaking ground waste.

When crews arrived, they found a 37-year-old man in his underwear at a nearby property with severe burns on his body, according to Olmsted County Sheriff's Capt. Scott Behrns. It is unclear if the man took his clothes off or if they were burned off.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Behrns said it was unclear why the man was at the property and evidence at the scene was not consistent with the statement he gave to law enforcement. There were indications of narcotics activity on the property, Behrns said.

The man was taken by ambulance to a nearby intersection and from there was taken by helicopter to a hospital in the Twin Cities.