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Woman dies after two fires break out in Sturgis

STURGIS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Developing news out of Sturgis, where two fires -- one deadly -- are now under investigation.

Both fires sparked within hours of each other, keeping Sturgis firefighters very busy. The first fire broke out at a home in the 1100 block of Merryview Drive late Friday night. One woman died.

Police say 51-year-old Lori Miller was killed in the fire. Family says she had dementia and likely caused the fire by accident.

"It's a tragic way to end. I don't think it's totally hit home with me yet," says Miller's brother, Brent Steiner. He had to see for himself where his sister Lori was killed. A house, now barely recognizable.

"Knowing my sister's health, I know she's in a better place now," he says.

His mother and brother-in-law barely made it out alive. They tried the best they could to get to her, but the flames were too intense.

Miller's husband told Newschannel 3 off-camera that Lori likely lit a candle and because of her condition, may have forgotten about it. The fire marshal determined its origin was in her bedroom.

"More specifically, it looks like the fire starts in the bed. Interviewing witnesses indicated it was likely careless candle use," Michigan State Police fire investigator Sgt. Scott LeRoy says.

Steiner says it will take a while for his family, and especially his mother, to get over this, after she had helped take care of her for years.

"She already lost a son and a daughter previously to my sister going, so it's going to be difficult for her," Steiner says.

An autopsy will be performed to determine a final cause of death.

Three hours after that fatal fire, the Sturgis Fire Department was called out again. This time, it was an apartment building on West Congress Street.

When they arrived, they found heavy smoke and people still inside. Everyone was able to get out safely, but the building was destroyed.

Firefighters say they couldn't have worked these two fires without the help of three nearby fire departments.
Both fires remain under investigation.