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Worthington firefighters battle a house fire on 11th Street Tuesday afternoon. Brian Korthals/Daily Globe

Fire engulfs 11th Street house

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WORTHINGTON — Smoke detectors did their job and alerted a family to a fire, allowing them to escape without injury late Tuesday afternoon.

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The blaze was reported at 5:04 p.m. Tuesday at 949 11th St., just off Clary Street.

The house, a rental, is inhabited by a family of five Karen immigrants. Through an interpreter, resident Klo Wah said he was changing the baby’s diapers when he heard the smoke detector start wailing. The rest of the family was in the front living room, watching a movie. By the time he looked toward the addition on the back of the house, flames could already be seen, and they quickly evacuated the premises.

When Worthington Police Sgt. Brett Wiltrout arrived ahead of the fire department, he noted that the back of the house was fully engulfed and went to a couple of nearby houses to evacuate the residences. Both families were sitting down to eat, he said, and were oblivious to the nearby danger.

“Once we got on the scene, it was rolling pretty good, so it had been going for a while,” said Worthington Fire Chief Rick von Holdt.

The back addition to the home was filled with a lot of combustible material, von Holdt noted, and the heat of the blaze had already busted out the back windows.

“That added more fuel to the fire,” he said. “It started rolling into the attic.”

There was also significant fire damage to the kitchen area, von Holdt reported, and smoke damage throughout the rest of the structure.

Holes had to be chopped in the roof in order to ventilate the smoke.

“We knocked it down right away,” von Holdt said of his crew. “Now it’s just a matter of ventilating and looking for hotspots.”

Firefighters were on the scene, ventilating and repacking their gear, into the early evening. Red Cross representatives were on hand to provide assistance to the tenants.

After looking over the scene and what was left of the back addition, von Holdt thought that wiring was the likely culprit.

“We’re suspecting wiring, but they did smoke, so we couldn’t rule that out,” he said. “... But I’m leaning toward wiring. There was a power strip with quite a few items plugged into it, and they usually smoked outside.”

Based on his assessment of the property, von Holdt didn’t think the house would be inhabitable any time soon.

“I wouldn’t think it would be rebuildable,” he said, “given the age of the house and the damage.”

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Beth Rickers
Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  
(507) 376-7327
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