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Woman wants to alert others to fire danger after grandfather's death

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A tipped-over candle is believed to have started the Sept. 24 fire that killed 61-year-old David Oliver, alone in his home near the Ponderosa Campground on Lake Zumbro.

For several nights after her 61-year-old grandfather died in a house fire, Sherry Clark of Rochester visited the destroyed home, trying to come to grips with the loss.

"It's just hard to find any kind of answers in why this happened," she said.

Now she has a cause.

She's wants to warn others about the dangers of using candles in homes.

A tipped-over candle is believed to have started the fire that killed 61-year-old David Oliver, alone in his home at the time near the Ponderosa Campground on Lake Zumbro. The fire was reported in the early morning hours of Sept. 24.

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Puppies might have knocked over the candle, said Clark, the second-oldest of Oliver's 13 grandchildren. She's 23.

An official cause of the fire is still forthcoming from the State Fire Marshal's office, but the Wabasha County Sheriff's Department, reporting in the immediate aftermath of the incident, stated that Oliver was using candles because of a power outage at the time.

The outage was caused by an underground line that failed. That line is being evaluated for replacement, said Gary Fitterer, engineering director at People's Cooperative Services.

It was the third power outage in the area in about a year. When the next outage strikes, Clark wants people to think twice before lighting a candle, or just be sure they're careful with it if they do.

"I just don't want anyone also to have to bury someone or lose a household," she said.

Clark's comments coincide with the start of Fire Prevention Month in Minnesota.

The state had 39 fire deaths in 2010, and 34 deaths in 2009, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

Open flames are one of the leading causes of house fires, according to the department.

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Fire Prevention Month is held every October, keeping a tradition that began in 1922, when Fire Prevention Week was declared to be the week including Oct. 9, the day of the great Chicago fire of 1871.

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