A Dundas mother of three saw her home go up in smoke Tuesday afternoon from a fire that started while she and her children were out.
Around 2 p.m., area fire departments responded to the West Mill Street fire, working to control and knock down the flames which were mostly coming from the back side of the house. The family that occupied one side of the duplex — Jana Greene, and her three children (9, 6 and 4 years old) — were at work and school at the time of the incident.
“My next door neighbors called me at work, asking if I was home” Greene said. “I said, ‘No,’ and she said, ‘Your house is on fire.’”
Firefighters confirmed that the occupants of the other side of the duplex were also not inside the home at the time of the fire.
But by the time the flames were cleared out, the structure appeared in tatters, and without renter’s insurance, Greene is not sure what she’s going to do.
“I’m a single mom of three, so …” she said, breaking into tears.
Friends and neighbors were quick to show support. Greene said by 3:30 p.m. at least one person had dropped off clothes for her kids.
Pauline Thibodeau, owner of L&M Bar and Grill in Dundas, where Greene works, said she is already putting together a fundraiser for the family.
“She has not been able to catch any breaks,” Thibodeau said of Greene. “I’m just sad for her. I’ve been crying. I told her material items are nothing; at least the kids are safe. The thing is small towns, communities, we pull together in times like this.”
Emergency personnel, led by Northfield Area Fire and Rescue Service, arrived on scene to smoke and flames billowing out of the back of the house and the connected deck. Firefighters went on the roof of the structure with a chainsaw and ax to open up a hole, allowing the flames inside to shoot out.
“When it gets into the attic, you have to vent the fire and heat out, and that’s the easiest way to do it,” said Assistant Fire Chief Tom Nelson. “We ended up doing that above both sides of the duplex. It’s called vertical ventilation.”
From there, they were able to knock down the flames with hoses and a little help from the rain. Around 2:30 p.m., the Northfield Fire Department was calling for assistance from the Faribault department, saying that flames had spread from the attic of one side of the duplex, across the firewall and to the other side.
“When flames are on the deck like that, it can get into the eaves (roof overhang) and spread to both sides of the firewall,” Nelson said.
Responders had the flames under control by about 3 p.m. Tuesday. Nelson said they didn’t know the cause of the fire, and the Minnesota Fire Marshal was called in to investigate.
“It appears it started out in the back, potentially on the deck,” Nelson said.
Northfield trucks were joined on scene by a backup engine from the Faribault Fire Department. Northfield Ambulance, Northfield Police Department, Dundas Police Department and Rice County Sheriff’s Office were also on scene.
“It was a good attack,” Nelson said of the firefighters’ work knocking out the flames. “Anytime you get a fire in an attic, it’s really hard; it’s whack-a-mole. They did a good job.”