Roof collapses during rural Detroit Lakes house fire, firefighters retreat with minutes to spare
The unplowed, narrow driveway on Stall Lane, near Lake Melissa off Highway 59, caused problems as first responders arrived on scene, the Detroit Lakes fire chief said.
DETROIT LAKES — A home in rural Detroit Lakes was deemed a "total loss" following a house fire late on Sunday night.
On March 12 at 10:52 p.m., emergency dispatchers received a report of a porch fire at a residence on Stall Lane, near Lake Melissa. Initial reports also stated the fire was moving to the second floor of the residence.
The assistant fire chief for Detroit Lakes arrived on-scene within about six minutes of the initial call, said Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Ryan Swanson, and the ladder truck arrived a few minutes later.
However, Swanson said, the driveway to the property was narrow and not plowed, which gave the firefighters some difficulties with approaching the scene.
"It added another element to the call," said Swanson. "I had my plow on my pickup, so I made one pass in, I got all the way into the house and I ended up getting stuck, but we were able to get one engine in there."
The difficult approach to the property also caused firefighters to need to pump water from tankers on Highway 59 to the scene about 750 feet away, he said.
"We had to lay 750 feet of hose from the highway and pump from the highway to the other engine on-scene," said Swanson.
The fire had already spread to the second level of the residence by the time firefighters made entry on the first floor, he said, and they also noticed the stairwell was compromised so they couldn't use it to attack the blaze.
"Then, we tried to attack through windows, off ladders," he said. "And I was starting to feel pretty good that we had this thing, but (the structure) was what they used to call balloon construction, where the walls are open from one level to the other with no fire breaks."
Swanson noticed something was wrong, and when they saw the fire had spread to the attic, firefighters were ordered off the structure.
Within three to four minutes of retreating from the home, the roof collapsed, Swanson said.
"At that point, we had no way in, it was not safe, and we made the call to, unfortunately, burn it down," said Swanson. "It's still a really hard call to make because our job is that we want to save property, but we also have to do it safely."
After the structure gave way, area firefighters from Detroit Lakes, Audubon, Frazee and Vergas all monitored the fire pile to ensure it didn't spread to any other nearby structures.
One Detroit Lakes resident evacuated the fire safely and was assisted in relocating for the night via the American Red Cross. No injuries were reported.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Swanson said the fire appeared to originate with a wood stove. He also commended his team on their efforts to save property.
"You look at these (firefighters) from all these towns, they are up all day, living their lives, and then they get paged out at bedtime, and they are up all night," he said. "And then they are at work all day today. They didn't go home and go to sleep ... and the guys are back doing their day-to-day."