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Three departments fight Osage house fire Monday

The unoccupied home of Marvin and Patti Swenson was engulfed in flames. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Ben Kimball was heading down Highway 34 near Osage Monday afternoon when he saw thick black smoke bellowing into the sky.

"It looked like it was coming from Marvin Swenson's so I did a screwey (U-turn) and headed here," he said.

By the time he called firefighters from the Swensons' home, flames were visible for miles above the tree line. The rural Osage house and surrounding lawn were engulfed in flames.

"The whole wall blew out, glass flew everywhere," Kimball said. "She wanted to use a garden hose but I could hear the ammunition going off."

Firefighters from Park Rapids, Carsonville and the DNR rushed to the scene to prevent the creeping flames from jumping to nearby fields.

Marvin Swenson and wife Patti live right behind their old house in a mobile home. The properties are located at 57016 Frasier Street, two miles into Becker County.

"We use this for storage," Patti Swenson said of the old home.

She had started an exterior wood stove Sunday night to warn the house so she could work in it Monday. Her husband and son are currently working in Alaska.

She said she was sorting through the family's belongings, getting ready to make a donation to Headwaters Humane Society's annual rummage sale fundraiser.

The sound of gunfire periodically interrupted the firefighters' work as bullets ignited. Marvin Swenson stored some of his guns and ammunition there, Patti Swenson said.

A large explosion occurred when 50 pounds of black powder ignited.

"I had let the fire burn down Monday but a spark or cinder" must have escaped the chimney or the stove itself, Swenson said. She said a pile of dry wood was sitting next to the wood burner that could have caught fire.

"I suppose the bottles of wine didn't help," she said of several bottles of handmade wine the family had stored in the residence.

Kimball said the front corner of the home near the stove was in flames when he got to the scene. Flames quickly spread throughout the wood frame home.

Swenson said she was lying down because she wasn't feeling well. She woke up around 3 p.m. to see Kimball's pickup sitting out on the road. She got up to see what was going on and realized her old home was on fire.

Because the home was unoccupied, it was not insured, Patti Swenson said.

The structure and contents were a total loss.

Swenson praised the rapid response from the fire departments.

"We get excellent service," she said.

As if Mother Nature was hurling one last insult, it started sprinkling as soon as firefighters had knocked down the flames.

"I don't think this would have helped," Patti Swenson said.