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Local fire departments battle March 1 house fire

By Angie Rodenburg

Fri, Mar 7th, 2014
Posted in All Features

Royal and Stephanie Anderson’s home located in Peterson, Minn. was engulfed in flames on March 1 from a fire originating from a gas heater. Photo by Angie Rodenburg

It’s not often that the Rushford Fire Department gets a call for a house fire, and that’s the way they like it. Unfortunately, the Rushford Fire Department received such a phone call at 12:52 a.m. on Saturday, March 1 from the residence of Royal and Stephanie Anderson.

Stephanie Anderson called 911 after receiving a phone call from her husband Royal as she was just getting to Rushford after a night out with friends. As she drove up to her house she could see the smoke.

“When you’re watching your house on fire, it seems like it takes forever for the fire department to get there,” said Stephanie. In reality the fire department was able to respond in six minutes.

Royal had been home and was sleeping when their dog Nollie came in the bedroom seeming to need to be let out. When Royal went to let out Nollie, he saw that the back porch was filled with smoke. “She’s a real hero,” said Stephanie about their quick acting dog.

Royal was able to get out of the house safely. However, the Andersons were concerned when they couldn’t find Royal’s brother, Riley, who had been staying with them. They were relieved to soon find that he had not been home. With everyone safely out of the home, Nollie included, the firefighters were able to get right to work putting out the fire.

Not long into fighting the fire the Houston Fire Department was called in to assist. The old house was built with a balloon style construction that allowed the flames to easily move from one part of the house to another. They not only had to fight the fire in the rooms, but in between the ceiling and the floors. Houses today are not built this way in order to help seal off fires from other areas of the house.

The fire department not only had to contend with the balloon style construction, they also had the difficult task of putting a fire out in winter. Fire Department Chief Paul Corcoran said that the snow piles were deep and it was extremely icy. The firefighters kept the trucks running and the water circulating to ensure that the hoses wouldn’t freeze. Chief Corcoran was pleased that it was only zero degrees out while fighting the fire rather than -22 like it had been in days prior.

The temperature did still manage to make work more difficult for the firemen. The fire department gear was frozen stiff from the mix of cold and water. Their pant legs became more like tubes as they froze into place and ice formed on their helmets. Firefighters took turns going in the truck to warm up.

It took 30,000 gallons of water, 11 hours, and 23 firefighters to put out the house fire at the Anderson’s. This coming August would have marked three years of the Anderson’s living in this home. They plan to rebuild on the same lot. “This has been our home together,” said Stephanie.

“We want to thank everyone for all their help,” said Stephanie. “It’s unreal how many people come to help in a small town like this.”

The fire was ruled to be an accident caused by an old gas heater on the back porch.

Chief Corcoran encourages homeowners to be careful when using an alternate source of heat. Many people have been utilizing space heaters with the cost of propane skyrocketing this winter, so it’s especially important to be mindful. Make sure no kids or animals could knock over a space heater. Old space heaters do not have the safety features that many of the new ones have.

Chief Corcoran also encourages homeowners to make sure their detectors are working and that chimneys are kept clean. For those living in older homes, take extra caution as wiring deteriorates.

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