Duluth Couple Escapes Garage Fire with Cautionary Tale

Heidi Enninga
January 08, 2017 10:10 PM

Though we prepare for the worst, most of us will never find out how we'd actually react in a fire. 

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After a blaze started in their attached garage, one Duluth couple was forced to find out, and they escaped with a cautionary tale for others. 

A full day after firefighters put out the blaze on the 400 Bock of Rustwood Lane, Judy and Earl Rogers were dealing with the aftermath. Extensive smoke damage has made their home unlivable for now.

"It's worked its way everywhere in this house, and it's all going to have to be wiped down and washed and scrubbed and repainted. The carpet, you don't know if you'll ever get it out of the carpet," Earl Rogers said. 

An air filter was running full blast to absorb soot on Sunday when the couple returned with family to retrieve some personal items. Black covered almost every surface. 

"We just need to get the house cleaned up so we can live here again," Judy said. 

It all started Saturday morning when the couple put a Christmas gift in the garage. Minutes later, it was on fire. When a fire is noticed right away, th Duluth Fire Department said a fire extinguisher can actually do the trick sometimes. 

"If it's a small fire, do what you have to do to get it out, but once it gets out of control, than it's time to call us." Captain Andy Golz with the Duluth Fire Department said. 

Judy and Earl hoped their blaze was small enough to contain, however buckets of water and a fire extinguisher didn't help. Even after they escaped though, Judy went back in. 

"I was just figuring I had to put it out because I didn't want it to spread, because I knew it could come in the house, so I was just trying my darndest to get those flames down," Judy said. 

In stressful situations, Golz said instinct kicks in which makes sticking to a fire plan, so important. 

"No one really ever expects to have a fire in their home so it's something that they don't mentally prepare for, Golz said. "If you think about it, kind of have a game plan, know where your fire extinguishers are, know your exit routes out of your house, have an escape plan, that's going to help you be better prepared for if something horrible like this does actually happen to you. You can react accordingly."

For Earl and Judy: it's a lesson learned. The couple said they should have gotten and stayed out sooner. Both had to be treated for smoke inhalation, Judy for burns too. The two walked away with faces and hair completely black from the soot, some still remained even after being thoroughly washed. 

"The heat went right through and made this huge blister," Judy said. "Then little piece of something landed on my scalp."

Amid all the damage, the Rogers said they have many reasons to be grateful. 

"The realization how many wonderful friends. We've got them all over the city. They've called, they've been texting, they've been writing in emails and whatnot," Earl said. "Beautiful, beautiful friends, and we're okay. That's all I care about."

Initial estimates put damages at upwards of $150,000. Fire officials are still investigating a cause. 

Captain Golz said the incident was a reminder to all households to come up with a plan and a central meeting place. Families with children especially, should practice a fire drill and meeting the safe location. If you cannot get out of a burning building, Golz said you should get in a room that doesn't have fire and close the door. 


Heidi Enninga

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