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Geneva apartment also damaged


TOTAL LOSS — Firemen work to extinguish a blaze at 403 4th Ave. in Ellendale last Thursday. The house was a total loss. Whitney McCamish, a resident of the house, was treated for smoke inhalation at the Owatonna hospital. Ellendale fireman Roger Larson was treated for chest pain at the scene and then transported to the hospital, where emergency surgery was performed for heart blockage. (Star Eagle photos by Kathy Paulsen)



Staff Writer

Local firemen were called out to battle not one, but two fires Thursday, June 14.

The first fire call was received by the Steele County Sheriff’s Office, Ellendale Fire Department and Ambulance service at 8:33 a.m. when they were notified of a fire at the home at 403 4th Avenue, Ellendale.

The home is owned by Donna Mae McCamish and was occupied by her daughter, Chanelle, and her four children, Whitney, 14, Sydney, 11, Bo, 6, and Blake, 3. Chanelle, Whitney and Blake were in the home when the fire started.

Whitney immediately evacuated the house, but went back in as her brother and mother were in the home. Sydney and Bo had spent the night at the home of their grandmother, Donna Mae.

Whitney found her brother hiding upstairs. She escorted him from the house and ran next door to Alvin Wobschall’s home and asked him to call the fire department. Whitney and Blake ran back to their house and were very glad to see their mother coming back outside.

Geneva's Fire Chief, Greg Bartsch, saw smoke upon his arrival for work on Thursday morning at Floors For U and went to check things out. Bartsch discovered the home on fire and immediately notified the Freeborn County Dispatch Center and requested the Geneva Fire Department be notified for assistance. 

Jeff Torp, who lives one block north of the McCamish home, also decided to go to the McCamish home to check things out after his wife told him she had seen smoke.

Once the fire call was received, the New Richland and Owatonna Fire Departments were called for assistance, as was the Blooming Prairie Ambulance Service.

Patty Kunkel, a neighbor just west of the McCamish family, left for work at 8:21 tand had not seen, heard or smelled anything and was surprised to later hear her home sustained damage. The Kunkels’ new siding on the east side of their home melted off due to the heat. Jeff Kunkel was thankful his home did not receive any other damage.

Stephanie Lageson Kibler, another neighbor, said within minutes of her discovering the house was on fire, it was fully engulfed in flames.

Another neighbor, Rachel Schmidt, heard fire sirens, came outside from where she works on Main Street, saw black smoke and immediately wondered if her house was on fire. Schmidt ran up the street to find out. 

Ironically, this was the fourth fire in this neighborhood within a couple of years. Two of the homes, both the Misgen home and the McCamish home, were total losses.

Several firemen worked hard to prevent the former Ellendale United Methodist Church, located east side of McCamish home, from being damaged. Bartsch believes south winds played an important part in preventing more destruction in this neighborhood where homes are located very close together.

The firemen remained on the scene for several hours once the initial fire had been extinguished as several flare-ups occurred. The firemen decided to open up some of the walls so they could access the area better and get the fire completely extinguished. The fire was reported as contained at 12:10 p.m.

The Southeastern Chapter of the American Red Cross assisted the McCamish family with immediate living arrangements in Owatonna. They also helped them with their food and clothing needs.

No major injuries to the residents were reported, but Whitney McCamish was taken to Owatonna where she was treated for smoke inhalation.

One Ellendale fireman was transported to local hospital after he experienced chest pain. The fact that there was medical personnel on scene and that he was taken to the hospital — where doctors determined Roger Larson had a heart blockage and performed the necessary surgery — may well have saved his life.

Two New Richland firemen, Josh Moen and Dan Budach, were also given medical attention by medical personnel at the site.

As several of the fire departments were preparing to return to their fire barns, the Geneva Fire Department received a second fire call. At 11:22 a.m., a fire had been reported at a duplex on 2nd Street SE in Geneva, which is owned by Jeremy Hohansee. A fire started in the kitchen area of the apartment occupied by Dean Wegge. 

The Geneva and Owatonna fire departments, which had responded to the first fire call in Ellendale, as well as the Clarks Grove and Hollandale fire departments responded to the call. The Ellendale Fire Department also brought their tanker unit to Geneva.

Bartsch reports that a fire started in the kitchen stove and burned the surrounding cabinets and ceiling tile and then proceeded into the attic. The fire fighters removed the hood above the stove as well as a large number of ceiling tiles and were able to stop the fire from continuing.

Wegge was taken by ambulance to Albert Lea Mayo Health Systems where he was treated for smoke inhalation.

Clarence Waters, who lives in the adjoining apartment in the duplex, was sleeping at the time and was awakened by the fire fighters and asked to vacate the building. Waters was unharmed and his apartment did not receive any damage.

Ellendale’s Fire Chief, Jeremy Reese, could not be reached for comments concerning the McCamish fire.

The Steele County Sheriff’s Office assisted during the fire in Ellendale and they, along with the State Fire Marshall and insurance investigators, are continuing their investigations.

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