Madelia man interfered at fire scene, faces charges

MADELIA – A 42-year-old Madelia man faces six misdemeanor charges for his involvement in the Feb. 3, fire that destroyed much of the central part of the business district in the middle of an early-morning blizzard that hampered fire fighting efforts by multiple departments.

Bryce G. Weiss was charged with two counts of DUI, open container driver, failure to use headlights, driving around a barricade and trespassing March 17 in Watonwan County District Court. His initial court appearance was set for 9 a.m., Tuesday, April 5.

According to a Statement of Probable Cause, due to the threat of additional explosions and rapid spread of additional fire, police established a one-block perimeter to prevent the public from entering the area around the fire.

While the perimeter was being established, a man, later identified as Weiss, entered the area unseen by law enforcement, trying to render assistance in moving vehicles and equipment, proceeded on streets directly across from the fire and in an area full of smoke and burning embers.

Weiss, not a member of the media, took multiple photos of the fire that were later sent to several news agencies and posted on YouTube.

Madelia Police were later advised Weiss began to interact with the Madelia Fire Chief, telling him how to fight the blaze, and trying to interject in conversations with other fire departments. Firefighters and Madelia Police asked him to leave the area, but he remained inside the perimeter for a period of time.

At about 6:55 a.m., after a number of streets were closed to aid fire suppression efforts, police observed a vehicle pull away from a residence owned by Weiss, and drive onto the street with its headlights off. The driver tried to drive around a police car with its flashing lights on, to an area between a truck and plow parked next to a building.

Police tried to stop the vehicle moving toward them by flashing a flashlight at the driver. The driver later stopped after it was past the squad car and inside the fire perimeter. Police identified the vehicle driver as Weiss.

Police detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from Weiss, took him into custody, transported him to the police department and asked him to take a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT), which he refused to do. Weiss continued to argue with police.

Police noted Weiss showed multiple signs of intoxication. He said his heat was off in his house so he returned to the fire in his car and began drinking beer. He failed several field sobriety tests. Weiss again refused to provide a PBT sample, and he was handcuffed. He refused to give his full name and did not have his driver’s license on him.

Weiss later provided two deep air samples into a DMT machine at the Watonwan County Jail in St. James. The first sample showed a test result of .083, the second .081.

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at fbusch@nujournal.com).

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