MELBOURNE - It was fortuitous that Denise Juel was sitting in her dining room when a fire broke out across the street from her Melbourne home Tuesday morning.
Normally, she would be working in her office in the morning, and the clatter from the contractors doing work on her bathroom would have made it hard to hear anything. She couldn't smell the smoke. However, on this particular day Juel had invited a friend over for coffee. That's when she saw the flames.
"Oh my gosh! That house is on fire," she recalled telling the friend.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
A Melbourne firefighter uses a chain saw to cut a hole in the roof of a recently extinguished building. Melbourne, Rhodes and Baxter Fire Departments all worked to douse the flames of an unoccupied home at 605 Butler St. Tuesday morning.
She promptly called 911.
The fire at 605 Butler Street consumed the home, but the occupants, Tina Mercer and her high-school-age son were away when the fire started.
Sarah Kielman said the building is one of 12 that she and her husband own. Kielman got the call and arrived on scene before Mercer, who has been renting the home since 2004. She said nothing like this has ever happened to any of the properties she owns. Everyone was lucky Juel spotted the fire when she did.
Melbourne Fire Chief Bob Monroe said the fire is still under investigation and that its point of origin is still unknown. Juel said it appeared as if the fire started in the attic; she could see flames coming out the side windows.
"That whole bedroom on the south side was just red," she said.
Dick and Tye Medhaug, of Tye's Touch Tree Service in Marshalltown, said they heard the call over the police scanner while bidding a job. No one was on scene yet. They decided to head to Melbourne and see what they could do to help.
"It was totally engulfed in flames," Dick said of the building when he and his son arrived.
Once firefighters arrived, the two men helped them into their gear and did whatever else they could to assist.
About a dozen volunteer firefighters from Melbourne, Rhodes and Baxter Fire Departments extinguished the flames within an hour after Juel called 911. Considering the fire's size, Monroe said firefighters got it out relatively quickly.
Damage to the home - from both fire and smoke - made the building a total loss, he added.
"I would say they lost everything," he said.
An attempt to contact Mercer failed at press time.