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Fire claims home on Little Cormorant

Fire, smoke and water damage resulted from this house fire on Little Cormorant. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

Another Becker County family has been left homeless by fire.

Flames were coming through the roof of an older two-story house when Audubon firefighters arrived at the scene on East Little Cormorant Road Monday afternoon.

Nobody was injured and no pets were harmed in the fire, which essentially destroyed the home owned by a retired couple, Mary and Oran Holtsclaw. Three people lived there in all.

Audubon firefighters were on the scene for about three hours.

A wood-burning fireplace was the culprit, according to Audubon Fire Chief Darcy Savig. The free-standing unit was designed for heating, he said.

The fire was reported shortly after 1 p.m., and at least one occupant was home at the time. "He was in there trying to put out the fire," Savig said.

The fireplace was located in the basement, and the fire worked its way up the angled chimney chase into an addition to the home, and then into the attic on the second floor.

The roof was burned and much of the rest of the house sustained heavy smoke and water damage, Savig said.

Fire crews from Lake Park and Detroit Lakes provided mutual assistance at the scene, as did Audubon Rescue and St. Mary's EMS, Savig said.

Water was pumped into tanker trucks from a public access on Little Cormorant Lake. About 10,000 gallons was used to fight the blaze, Savig said.

The extreme cold weather made firefighting difficult, as crews had to take care to keep hose nozzles, gear and equipment from freezing up.

Air packs, or cylinders designed to allow firefighters to breathe in smoky conditions, kept freezing up.

Firefighters wear them on their backs, and the water and subfreezing conditions caused the air pack valves and controls to ice over and require continual attention.

The Audubon Rescue crew helped keep the air packs functioning, Savig said.

"That's how it is in a winter environment," Savig said. "We don't have to worry about heat exhaustion, just regular exhaustion," he said. "This is our second structure fire in the last week."

Audubon firefighters also went out on a carbon monoxide call Saturday morning.

With the cold weather, fire departments in the area have been busy.

On Saturday, Detroit Lakes firefighters responded to a chimney fire in Lakeview Township. On Sunday they went to a chimney fire on the 1300 Block of Washington Avenue in Detroit Lakes.

Frazee firefighters helped at the scene of a chimney fire in Otter Tail County on Friday. They responded to a field fire on Saturday in Burlington Township.

Savig says it pays to have a chimney inspection, especially in older homes.

And it's smart to keep important documents in a fire-proof safe. Paperwork saved in such a safe in the Little Cormorant home made it unscathed through the fire, he said.

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