'Fire is crazy, it just took off': Crosslake woman reflects on Saturday house fire
During the frigid morning on Saturday, Gina Nevin started a fire in the wood-burning stove at her Crosslake home.
When smoke detectors began sounding sometime later, Nevin, 23, said she assumed smoke from the stove was errantly setting them off. A trip out to the garage made her realize the alarms were alerting her to more than just excess smoke, however.
"I realized there was a fire behind the wood stove," Nevin said.
She grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed the area, using up the contents in her attempt to beat back the flames.
"At that time, it had already ran up the wall and gone through the floor," Nevin said.
She called 911 shortly after 11 a.m. to report the fire and headed upstairs inside the house to grab a sweatshirt, knowing she would have to go outside to meet the firefighters. Nevin said she knew the situation was worse than expected when she saw how much smoke was inside the house. In the middle of the theater room, which was directly above the garage, a large Lovesac bean bag chair was in flames.
"I was trying to beat the flame out with a pillow, and it didn't really work," Nevin said. "When that huge Lovesac had become engulfed in flames, I decided I wasn't going to be able to stop it at that point and I evacuated."
The only item Nevin grabbed before leaving the home was her car keys. She managed to back her car out of the garage and drove to the end of the long driveway on the 15000 block of Wilderness Trail, directing fire trucks to the location of the fire.
Over the course of the next three hours, firefighters from seven area departments attempted to control the blaze in temperatures hovering at zero degrees and a subzero wind chill. Flames had already fully engulfed the garage by the time crews arrived eight minutes after the initial call, according to Chip Lohmiller, Crosslake fire chief.
Between 28,000 and 30,000 gallons of water were gathered from the Crosslake Fire Hall and from Cross Lake itself as trucks drew water from a bay near Al's Marine on County Highway 66. That is enough water to fill a 20-by-40-foot swimming pool with an average depth of 5 feet.
The fire was already so intense upon arrival, Lohmiller said, firefighters did not enter the building, instead utilizing a ladder truck from the Ideal Fire Department to spray the house down from above. Lohmiller said the roof collapsed and estimated 70 percent of the home was destroyed by the fire. In addition to the Crosslake and Ideal fire departments, firefighters from the Mission, Fifty Lakes, Pequot Lakes, Pine River and Emily fire departments assisted at the scene.
"Since the whole upstairs was so gone, they said if there's nobody in there, we're not going to enter it," Nevin said. "I said, 'You might as well use it for practice, I guess.'"
Nevin said she'd never experienced anything like the fire in her life and described it as "terrible."
"I want to listen to my 911 call so bad. I was just so panicked," Nevin said. "Everybody I talked to said, 'I don't even think I would have tried to put it out.' ... At the time you think you have to, it's your only choice. I didn't think that the whole house was going to burn down. I thought just that wall was going to be damaged. Fire is crazy. It just took off."
Nevin and her father, Dave Nevin, who was out of town at the time of the fire, lost everything. Dave Nevin's car was in the garage and was destroyed along with the home. Nevin said she and her dad both have places to stay and friends are helping out with clothing and other items.
"My dad has a surprisingly good attitude about it," Nevin said. "Now that I just saw him, I feel a lot better. Because before, I was a little nervous."
Despite the loss, Nevin's outlook on the situation was more focused on how the fire impacted others.
"I'm so thankful for everybody that showed up. I can't believe how many people were there," Nevin said. "I thought, 'This is all because of me, all these people are here on their Saturday helping because of me.' It was a pretty humbling experience, I just feel so terrible about it.
But at least nobody was really putting themselves in harm's danger. I couldn't imagine if somebody got hurt."