Fire destroys Oakdale home

A home in Oakdale along Helmo and Upper 20th sustained major fire damage on Tuesady, April 22. The fire is believed to have started in the backyard where it breached into the home and quickly spread up the backside of the home and into the attic. (Linda Baumiester/Review)

Boy and dog escape burning structure

The Oakdale Fire Department responded to a report of flames along the outside of a house at the corner of Upper 20th Street North and Helmo Avenue North at 7:49 p.m. Tuesday, April 22.

Deputy fire chief Kevin Wold said a passerby noticed the blaze and immediately called 9-1-1 after checking to see if anyone was home and in need of help.

Inside the house was the family's son, who was unaware of the flames engulfing the back of his parents' home. He and the family dog made it out unharmed, Wold said. No one else was home at the time and no injuries were reported.

Wold said Oakdale firefighters were at the scene within a few minutes.   

"We had just cleared a grease fire from an apartment on the north end of town and had trucks on the road," Wold said. The deputy chief said the apartment fire was minor and did not cause any major damage and there were no injuries.

The single-family home on Helmo, however, was mostly destroyed.

"I'd say it's a loss," Wold said. "There are some salvageable valuables and personal belongings, but my guess is the structure will have to be rebuilt."

While the exact cause of the fire is still unknown and under investigation, Wold said it appears to have been an accidental fire, and no "malicious activity is suspected." He believes the fire started in the backyard near a sunroom and then breached its way inside through basement windows, where it quickly spread up the backside of the home and into the attic before firefighters extinguished it.

Firefighters from the Lake Elmo and Maplewood departments were soon at the scene to assist, as well as emergency medical services staff from Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater and Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Additionally, North St. Paul firefighters covered the Oakdale fire station while the other departments fought the blaze.

Wold said the family is staying with relatives, while they work with their insurance company to find temporary housing.

"They're OK physically, but naturally pretty devastated, like most people who go through such a life-changing event."

-- Joshua Nielsen

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