A St. Paul house remembered as a "beautiful' one with "character" by former residents and owners was destroyed by fire last Saturday, with firefighters working through the night to contain the blaze and dose hot spots.
St. Paul Fire Chief Trevor Kotowich said fire crews were called in at 4 p.m. on Saturday to the house located at 51 Avenue and 53 Street, after a passer-by noticed smoke pouring out of the residence. When fire crews responded, they found smoke coming through the chimney and roof. "We were concerned if anyone was in the house or was trapped."
Crews went inside and found the main floor engulfed in smoke, leaving them unable to see even a couple of inches from their face. The floor was "spongy," as well, Kotowich noted, indicating the fire had been burning for a while.
"Crews did their best to search the main floor," he said. Unfortunately, the firefighters had to exit and could not enter for a search again. "It was just too unsafe to send people back into the building. Around the time, we did receive notification that there were no people in the house," he said, adding this news was met with a "lot of relief."
The house, which he described as at least 80 years old, was too engulfed in flames to be saved, and a decision was made to bring heavy equipment in to knock the walls down and keep the flames contained. "It was certainly our last resort in the situation. It is what it is, I guess." The fire was active until well past midnight, with firefighters on scene until 4 a.m.
Firefighters did manage to salvage some items for the family, such as photo albums and artwork. As Kotowich looked at the goods taken from the home that were being stored in the fire hall, he said, "Their whole life could probably fit in three boxes right now. I'm very sad for the homeowners, but thankful no one got hurt."
Several people reacting to the news on the St. Paul Journal's Facebook page used the word "beautiful" to describe the house and recalled fond memories of the home from time spent living there or visiting.
École du Sommet is accepting items for the family that lost their belongings in the blaze, confirmed principal Karen Chalmers-Beaulieu, since Zoé Blais is a student at the school, while her father Normand is president of the school council.
Chalmers-Beaulieu said the school would be collecting girls' clothing, sized 8-9, and added Zoé loves pink and blue. Gift certificates from local stores, for items such as clothing for the parents, would also be welcome, she said.
Kotowich said the fire was still under investigation, with a provincial investigator due to come in and help with the search. Since the house has been almost completely destroyed, he noted finding a cause for the fire would be "like looking for a needle in a haystack," but he was hopeful the investigation would at least reveal where the fire originated.
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