GARRETSON, S.D. - This is the scene fire crews in Garretson encountered just after 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon. One house was engulfed in flames and a neighboring home was starting to burn.
Both homes are a total loss.
“Somebody came out the door and says we think your house is on fire,” homeowner Judy Ellis said. She owns the house where the fire originated.
She says no one was home when the fire began.
Neighbors jumped in to help.
“I came around the corner and hung up my phone and said oh my Gosh there's a house on fire. And as I was driving by a man came out of the house in a plume of smoke yelling call 9-11. So I pulled over and called 9-11,” neighbor Jo Paterson said.
People were trying to save the family's pets.
“They were running in and out, and you know doing everything they could, breaking windows, they took their shirts off, they ran in,” Paterson said.
When fire crews arrived the home was engulfed in flames and the place next door was starting to catch on fire.
“This is my very first fire of this nature where it spread from one house to another. Had some fires where we had out buildings that did similar things but never in town with houses like this,” Garretson Fire Chief Mark Rozeboom said.
“A lot of flames and a lot of black, black smoke,” Ellis stated.
It wasn't long before it was too dangerous for crews to go inside and they had to bring in heavy machinery to access the flames.
“They were underneath the roof lines, and things had collapsed on top of each other, so we just had the backhoe come in and start tearing the stuff apart so we could get to the root of the fire safely,” Rozeboom explained.
Despite that, crews worked to save the two families' personal items.
“We actually did salvage her wedding ring from the medicine cabinet in the house so we were able to find that for her,” he said.
And this home owner is just glad no one was hurt.
“God only gives us what we can handle, and I’m going to trust that, that's right, and we'll get through it,” Ellis said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Chief Rozeboom can’t say why the fire spread to the second home, but he says a late call and winds could have something to do with it.