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Officials name Roseau fire victims

After making sure family members had been notified, the Roseau County Sheriff Tuesday released the names of the two people who died in rural house fire Monday just west of Roseau, Minn.

After making sure family members had been notified, the Roseau County Sheriff Tuesday released the names of the two people who died in rural house fire Monday just west of Roseau, Minn.

John Ulvin, 94, and his wife, Elaine Ulvin, 89, had lived in the house for decades. Their bodies were found on the main floor in separate locations, said a firefighter.

The fire was seen by a passerby just before 10:30 a.m. Monday at the rural home about 2 miles southwest of Roseau. The woman called 911 and then drove to a nearby home to get help from Duane Paulson, a neighbor of the Ulvins who kept a close watch out for them.

Paulson said before firefighters arrived, he kicked in the door and tried to enter the house but the heat and smoke were too much. He said it was clear if anyone was inside the house at that point they would not have been alive.

Jeff Ballard, assistant chief of the volunteer fire department in Roseau, said Tuesday it appeared the fire started in the basement, which contained both a working wood stove and a propane furnace.


No cause of the fire has been determined yet, partly because the basement of the old house was three quarters full of water by the time the fire was put out, Ballard said.

The bodies of John and Elaine were found on the main floor, although a good part of the house had fallen into the basement, Ballard said. The house is a total loss and about two-thirds of the frame shell remains standing.

He and 10 other firefighters arrived on the scene shortly after getting the 10:30 a.m. call.

"We had it pretty much contained by 1 (p.m.), and we were back (at the station) for service by 5," Ballard said.

A state fire marshal is investigating the fire but there's no indication of anything suspicious, said Terry Bandemer, chief deputy with the Roseau County Sheriff's Office.

Bandemer said the bodies were taken to the Twin Cities for autopsies.

John Ulvin had worked for years for Polaris in Roseau and rented out some of the 200 acres he owned, Paulson said.

Elaine Ulvin had fallen and broken her hip not long ago and spent some time recuperating in a nursing home in Roseau before returning to their home several months ago.


Despite their age, the couple still got around, said their friends.

John and Elaine were in church Sunday in Roseau Evangelical Covenant Church, like usual, said the Rev. Joe Elick.

"They hardly ever missed church," said the pastor, who talked Tuesday by phone to the couple's sons, David and Dan, who live in the Twin Cities.

In fact, John Ulvin not only still drove in to church every week, but the couple would drive down to the Twin Cities to see their sons and their grandchildren, Elick said.

Despite decades at the church, most other members didn't know Elaine's actual first name was Edna, Elick said.

"I didn't know it either until she was in the hospital last summer with a broken hip."

She had moved back home several months ago.

"They were hard workers all their lives and lived very simply and very carefully," Elick said. "Until not too long ago, maybe last year, John still was using a chain saw to cut up wood."


"They were pretty independent," he said, "But very dependent on each other. They both have had their health issues but they made it together and turned down all suggestions from their family to move into assisted living (apartment in town.)"

Funeral arrangements aren't complete but services will be in the Covenant Church where John and Elaine had attended since 1951, Elick said.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com

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