Linden Hills resident dies in house fire

Dan Fobbe performed in the Mad Ripple Hootenanny. Photo by David Tanner

Dan Fobbe, who died in a fire April 7 at his Linden Hills home, was prepared to die young. Although he thought it would happen more than 20 years ago.

Fobbe was diagnosed in 1994 with melanoma, a cancer that spread to his lymph nodes and eventually his brain. Friends threw him a “going-away party” and a surgeon told him to get his affairs in order, he told TD Mischke in 2015 on The Mischke Roadshow podcast. His children were ages 5, 7, 9 and 11 at the time.

“I just prayed to God that I could live long enough to see my children get out and be able to live,” he told Mischke. “Just wanted to be able to help them get started in life, and then God could take me.”

Prior to neurosurgery, Fobbe changed his diet, tried naturopathic medicine and meditated. He said that while meditating he repeatedly felt a warm, secure presence with a face too bright to discern, which he believed to be his guardian angel.

The subsequent operation reportedly left the neurosurgeon shaking his head — the tumor popped out “like a cherry” and there were signs of shrinking.

“Statistically I was supposed to be gone,” Fobbe said to Mischke. “…I’m not so much afraid of death anymore.”

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Fobbe’s wife Diane Mach was out of town the afternoon of April 7 when neighbor Will Law noticed what looked like a cloud of dust swirling down the street. Then he and a neighbor spotted smoke coming from the corners of the house. Law banged on Fobbe’s door and it popped open.

“The house was already full of black smoke,” he said.

He heard the cat and dog inside and tried to coax them out. Then he heard the pop of the glass windows exploding.

“Three seconds later, the whole front of the living room was ablaze,” Law said. “It happened so fast. I was bummed out that I couldn’t get the pets out. I had no idea Dan was in there.”

Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner said the cause of the fire at 4108 Beard Ave. S. is unsolved. It started on the first floor, and Fobbe was discovered on the second floor, he said. The fire was well advanced when firefighters arrived, he said.

“We weren’t able to pinpoint an exact cause, likely because of all the damage that was caused to the house,” Tyner said. “We hope to keep investigating.”

Tyner said the department has seen an uptick in fires in recent weeks. There is no apparent pattern, he said, and several incidents have undetermined causes. In general, most fires are caused by human actions related to things like cooking and matches, he said, with a small percentage caused by electrical issues.

Fobbe’s death marks the second fire fatality this year. The first death took place last month at a North Minneapolis apartment; the woman’s name has not been released.

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Fobbe’s neighbors held a vigil two days after the fire. The front step is filled with flowers and candles.

“You can’t really wrap your head around how that happened,” Law said. “It is a reminder that there’s no guarantees.”

Fobbe worked as an attorney, coached hockey and played drums with the Mad Ripple Hootenanny at Harriet Brewing and Studio 2.

“Many times during the three- or four-hour gigs, we’d exchange looks of amazement and hilarity and just profound aliveness and I will never forget those looks,” bandmate Jim Walsh said in an email. “We’d just shake our heads like, ‘Life is grand!’”

He said Fobbe was known as “Dantastic” at the Hoot.

“I loved it when he’d put his drum down and dance with his beloved wife, Diane. They shared a rare romantic love and it was beautiful to be around,” Walsh said.

A GoFundMe page to benefit Fobbe’s family has raised more than $16,000. The page reports that community support is “carrying [Diane] forward, moment by moment. She is surrounded by such love and can’t thank you enough.”

TD Mischke’s interview with Fobbe is Episode 63 / Beating the Odds.