A Caledonia family was rescued from a fire in their home thanks to the quick thinking of a neighbor and a Caledonia police officer Sunday night.
Jim Rammelt happened to look out his sliding door at 11:52 p.m. and saw smoke and fire coming from Dustin and Jessica Morrison’s home next door at 5335 Count Drive, according to the Caledonia Police Department.
“I saw that the whole back of the house was on fire – the back deck, patio door and fire went all the way up to the second floor of the house,” Rammelt said. “It was a pretty good fire.”
Rammelt called 911 to make the report and then he pounded on his neighbor's front door.
When that didn't work, he tried to wake up the Morrisons by ringing the doorbell, but they didn’t answer. When Caledonia Police officer Jim Gardiner got to the scene, he, too, tried to wake up the neighbors but was unsuccessful and had to force his way into the home.
Gardiner saw smoke coming from the ceiling. Screaming to get the homeowners attention, Gardiner heard a voice on the second floor. He ran up the stairs, and was greeted by Dustin, who had a wooden pole and was standing in a defensive manner.
Dustin said he was scared that someone was breaking into his house and had almost gotten one of his guns to confront, which he thought was an intruder. But he opted for a wooden pole instead.
"I grabbed a wooden pole because you don't know if it's a cop or not nowadays," Dustin said. "The dogs weren't barking...I was scared you know, I was protecting my family."
But he quickly realized that Gardiner was there to help.
“I yelled, 'I’m really the police, and your house is really on fire,'” Gardiner said. “The fire was below his bedroom and the glow was lighting up the bedroom."
Dustin got the couple’s 10-month-old baby, Gardiner picked up their three-year-old child and Jessica got the family's two dogs.
"She gave him (Gardiner) a hug, I gave him a nice handshake," Dustin said. "We're just really thankful... and it's so scary to know that we could be dead right now. That's why we're so thankful and we're going to go over (to the neighbor's house) and thank him for what he did.
"All of the material stuff can be replaced, but we can't be replaced."
The fire department got the fire out right away, but they stayed for about two hours to make sure the fire was completely extinguished, Rammelt said.
While the fire remains under investigation, it is believed that smoking materials may have played a role in starting the blaze, but this has yet to be confirmed, Battalion Chief Jeff Henningfeld said.
“They were very fortunate that the neighbors saw the fire,” Henningfeld said. “The floor trusses were burned all the way through and it wouldn’t have been long before the ceiling would have given way.”
Gardiner agreed with Henningfeld.
“That neighbor was key to all of this,” he said. “That family had no idea their house was on fire. I woke them up by kicking door in and if another five or ten minutes would have gone by it would have been very bad.”
The damage to the home is estimated at $30,000.
The home did not have any smoke detectors, which are required by state law, Henningfeld said. However, Dustin said the home didn't have the smoke detectors up because they were in the middle remodeling the home.