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Forum staff reports, Published November 03 2011

86-year-old escapes fire at Detroit Lakes home

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. – An early morning fire on Wednesday destroyed the home of an 86-year-old here.

The fire is believed to have started in the basement of the house at 820 West Ave., possibly from a wood-burning stove, Detroit Lakes Fire Chief Dave Baer said.

Baer said the exact cause of the fire has yet to be determined by the state fire marshal’s office, which is investigating the incident.

The fire call came in at around 1:20 a.m., he said.

“When I arrived at the scene, the fire was coming out the windows, and it was already through the roof of the home, which was pretty much engulfed in flames,” Baer said. “We finished up at around 4 a.m.”

No one was injured in the fire, but it was a close call for the homeowner, Harold “Smokey” Johnson, who lived there alone.

“He didn’t have his hearing aids on, so he didn’t hear the smoke alarms go off, but he just woke up for some reason and realized the house was on fire,” Baer said. “He said he could feel the heat on his back as he ran out (of the house).

“He’s a lucky guy. The fire started right below his bedroom,” the chief said.