By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — Three women and a child were without a home Sunday after the duplex they were renting caught fire.
Only one of the women was home when the fire was reported at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. She was able to get out of the house unharmed.
Flames were covering the front of the house and burning the vinyl siding when firefighters arrived, said Lt. Scott LeBrun of the Mankato Fire Department.
Firefighters were able to stop the fire before it spread to the attic, which would have made the fire much more difficult to put out. A fire can spread quickly in several directions if it gets into the attic of a house, LeBrun said.
“It was working its way up to the overhangs, which would have given it direct access to the attic,” he said. “From what they say, five minutes later and the roof would have been going.
“The fire was progressing at a good rate, so their quick response was able to save the house.”
Marlene Herbranson, who owns the rental property, said her son called her at her home in the Twin Cities at about 7 p.m. Sunday to tell her about the fire. She didn’t get to Mankato to assess the damage until Monday morning.
She said two single women rent the second floor of the duplex and a single mother and her child rent the lower level. She did not know how long it would take to make the repairs required before her tenants can move back in.
LeBrun said a cause for the fire had not been determined as of early Monday. He estimated the damage to the house was more than $50,000.
Mike Woitas, a neighbor, said the flames were spreading quickly when he heard sirens and stepped out of his house to see what was happening. A police officer was on scene, but firefighters hadn’t arrived yet.
“It looked like it started on the outside of the house,” Woitas said. “We were standing here saying, ‘Where’s the Fire Department?’ It seemed like it was taking forever.”
It isn’t uncommon for a fire to start in the walls of a house, burn through and start siding on fire, LeBrun said. Siding often burns more quickly than inner walls.