Fire victim was first-ever Hmong Ramsey Co. Deputy

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

St. Paul suffers first fire death in more than a year

Ka Lee Yang Memorial Trust:
Wells Fargo Bank
1379 Phalen Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55106

The man killed in an apartment fire Monday in St. Paul was remembered as a pioneer in law enforcement and a loving father and husband.

Ka Lee Yang, 49, died of smoke inhalation in his apartment on North Sloan Street.

Yang was the first person of Hmong descent to become a deputy in the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office. In nearly 10 years with the agency, he worked as a corrections officer, an interpreter and a liaison between law enforcement and the Hmong community.

Before joining the sheriff's office, he served as a St. Paul police officer for a year.

Yang left the sheriff's office in 2001, but his former colleagues said his attitude and work ethic were unforgettable.

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said, "Great guy. Always hard working, very energetic. (He) had a great attitude--one of the most positive attitudes that I've ever run across."

Yang left behind a wife and five children.

His daughter Soumaly Yang said, "He supported us. He loved us. He always led us in the right direction."

Soumaly Yang said the family has just one photograph of their father. The others burned along with everything they owned.

Fire investigators ruled that the fire was accidental, but they haven't determined the cause. They do know that it started on the balcony of the Yangs' apartment.


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