Decorah firefighters were faced with snow-covered streets, chilly temperatures and strong winds Thursday afternoon as they battled a house fire at 610 W. Main St. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Lissa Blake
Decorah firefighters were faced with snow-covered streets, chilly temperatures and strong winds Thursday afternoon as they battled a house fire at 610 W. Main St. (Decorah Newspapers photo by Lissa Blake

Decorah's volunteer firefighters had a busy day responding to two calls in blizzard conditions Thursday.

Decorah firefighters were called to a house fire at about 2 p.m. at 610 Main St. When firefighters arrived, smoke was coming from the windows and the eaves of the house owned by Rick Thornton.

Firefighters made an interior attack and encountered heavy smoke and extreme heat conditions.

"They dealt with some pretty dangerous conditions ... the high winds fanned the fire a little bit. When we could get it knocked down, it would flair back up again when the wind pushed through the house," Fire Department Chief Mike Ashbacher said.

The fire, which appeared to have started in the basement near a recently used snowblower, was eventually extinguished and firefighters left the scene at about 6:15 p.m.

Ashbacher said firefighters had to be extra cautious due to the extreme weather conditions.

"The snow and high winds compounded the situation and the water eventually turns everything to ice," he said.

A damage amount was not available, but Ashbacher said it was "extensive."

The Calmar Fire Department, Decorah Police Department, Winneshiek County Sheriff's Depart ment, Iowa State Patrol, Winneshiek County Ambulance Service, Decorah Water Department and Alliant Energy all provided assistance.



Gemini

At about 10 p.m., Decorah firefighters were called out again for a fire at Gemini Inc. on Moellers Drive.

When they arrived, smoke was found in the building. Gemini personnel had located a small fire in a collection tray above the metal foundry and used a fire extinguisher on it, but it continued to smolder.

"There was a little bit of flame when we got there," Ashbacher said.

Because the fire was in an area of the building where water couldn't be used, firefighters used Gemini's dry chemical extinguishers to put it out.

Meanwhile, the fire spread through the ventilation system to the "baghouse collection" system located outside the building. Burning filters were removed and remaining fire inside the baghouse was extinguished. No damage amount was available. Firefighters left the scene at about 12:15 a.m.

No injuries were reported after either fire.

Ashbacher said many of the firefighters responded to both calls Thursday.

"It was a long day, but most of them were back at work this morning," Ashbacher said Friday morning.



Clear hydrants

Although it was not a problem for either call, Ashbacher said it's a good time to remind the public to keep fire hydrants clear of snow.

"As the snow continues to pile up, it can become a problem. It creates a hazard for us and it takes longer to make our hydrant connection and fight the fire. Any help would be appreciated," he said.

The chief said if a resident sees a hydrant is covered with snow and doesn't have the means to dig it out, they should contact the fire department at 563-382-3472 and they'll send out someone to take care of it.