Three Dead, Victims Identified from Suspicious Ironwood Fire

Baihly Warfield
Updated: February 23, 2018 05:23 PM

Authorities said a third body was found Thursday after a suspicious fire in downtown Ironwood.

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The three victims are 57-year-old Mark Arnold Verrete, 51-year-old Patrick James Somerville and 27-year-old Levi Dean Watkins. All three are from Ironwood. 

Gregory Klecker, Ironwood Public Safety Director, said they no longer have anyone unaccounted for.

The fire at 102 East Aurora Street, which housed a first-floor business and apartments on the upper two floors, was reported just before 4 a.m. Wednesday.

"When we arrived on scene, there was some flames coming out of the side of the building," said Sgt. Matt Sterbenz, Ironwood Public Safety Department. 

First responders from the Ironwood Public Safety Department rescued three people from the second and third floors.

"It's one of those things that you've been doing it long enough that it's not necessarily thinking of what is going on, it's just what do you need to do to make sure everything is done as fast as you can," said Sterbenz.

One person who was pulled from the scene was pronounced dead at the hospital.  Two people were later found dead in the debris.

Klecker said it will take time to go through the evidence as much of it is buried.

"We've got a fire. We don't know how it started, who was involved in it. Was it arson? Was it an accident?" Klecker said. "Any of this sort of event makes it a suspicious thing, and you've got people who are deceased. So that, again, elevates it."

Autopsies identified the second and third victims.

"The Ironwood Public Safety Department extends our sincere condolences and sympathies to the surviving family members for their loss in this tragic incident," a press release read.

Help the Victims

The Chamber of Commerce has started a fund to help the fire victims. There are a few ways to donate. 

People can give money online through the GoFundMe. They can also stop in to any Wells Fargo bank and donate to account No. 5903241197, the Downtown Ironwood Fire Victim's Fund. 

You can also give money at the following businesses:

-Cold Iron Brewing (Ironwood)

-Contrast Coffee (Iron River)

-Contrast Coffee (Marquette)

-Ironwood Area Chamber of Commerce

The Red Cross is also collecting supplies for Care Kits. Donations can be dropped off at Cold Iron Brewing in Ironwood.

They need things like hairbrushes, deodorant, washcloths, shampoo and conditioner, razors and shaving cream, tampons, coloring books, games, stuffed animals and large Ziplock bags.


Chief Klecker said the cause of the fire is not yet known, and that the investigation is expected to take several days. The Ironwood Public Safety Fire Marshal is receiving assistance from the Michigan State Police Fire Marshal's Office and the Gogebic County Medical Examiner in the investigation.

Hurley police and fire, the Gogebic and Iron County sheriff's offices, Michigan State Police-Wakefield Post, Beacon Ambulance, the Red Cross, and workers from Gogebic County Victim Services also responded to the scene.

The department thanked local businesses and citizens who brought refreshments for emergency workers.

"You've got a community here in Ironwood that cares," Klecker said. "When something tragic happens like this, everybody comes in and contributes something. That's very unique to this community."

Klecker said officials continue to "work diligently" to determine the cause of the fire.

Water Advisory

The city's water supply is safe and clean, according to City Manager Scott Erickson. Erickson said with the large volume of water used to fight the fire, it stirred up natural minerals found at the bottom of water pipes. 

Erickson said it looks cloudy until it flushes through, but it meets Department of Environmental Quality standards. 

He said people should run their water for a time to flush the system out. If residents or business owners take a meter reading before and after, they will be given a water credit for the extra water used.

Erickson said they had fewer complaints Thursday.

Schools were also forced to close Wednesday due to poor air quality from the fire but were open again Thursday and Friday.


Baihly Warfield

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