As officials investigate Lake Minnetonka house fire, homeowner grateful for firefighters, lack of injuries
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The massive flames could be seen rolling through the large home on the northeast side of Lake Minnetonka just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, with smoke billowing high into the sky. Firefighters battled extreme cold and wind trying to put it out.
"It was just huge," Wayzata Volunteer Fire Chief Kevin Klapprich recalls. "It was a fully engulfed fire when we arrived. Getting colder by the minute."
"There were many, many departments that came and responded to the fire, and they did an absolutely excellent job in subzero weather," Woodland Mayor Vince Suerth said.
Fire investigators believe the massive blaze, at 2750 Gale Road, in Woodland, broke out around 6:15 Wednesday evening.
100 firefighters from 20 departments were confronted by walls of flame, consuming a $5-million mansion.
Suerth said with no fire hydrants, crews had to set up a portable pool, fill it with tanker water and run long hoses to get to the flames.
"Probably one of the hardest parts, aside from the cold weather, was no fire hydrants in the area," Klapprich says. "Every bit of water needed to be tanked in from a hydrant, I'm going to guess, about a mile away."
"They were able to save any other structures around it with no damage, they did an excellent job," Suerth said.
In daylight Thursday, the house was still smoldering and the air was thick with smoke. Charred debris littered the neighborhood, covering the snow and hanging in the trees.
"I think that was due to the house being under construction, so you have a lot of insulation and light material floating around that started on fire," Suerth said.
Suerth said the house has been under construction for a while, but there was still about a year left on the build.
Klapprich says it was one of the largest and most challenging fire his department had ever faced.
"Nothing to stop the fire. It just took off on us," he said quietly. "With the wind off the lake, the wind-driven fire, it fanned the flames, and got it going."
The chief says the temperatures, in the single digits, were so cold that water in the hoses, turned to slush.
Fire crews rotated every 15 minutes, to a garage or the front seat of a truck, just to get a bit warm.
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Those who KSTP talked with a day after the fire are all thankful that everyone living nearby or working on the massive fire is OK.
"Nobody got hurt, that to us is the biggest thing," Suerth said.
The homeowner is part of the Davis family, who owns Cambria and many other businesses around Minnesota.
"The firefighters last night were unbelievable, especially in the frigid conditions and without a lot of resources to fight the fire," Jon Davis said.
No one was hurt, and that's what's most important, he said. Everything else is just "stuff."