MERRIFIELD - When Frank and Beverly Justin pulled up to their home on Upper Mission Lake in Merrifield Thursday after running errands in Brainerd they couldn't believe what they saw.

The couple, who have lived in their walkout lake home for the past 27 years, saw smoke filling their home. Frank Justin tried to open the garage door, but the heat was too intense. They called 911 for help.

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Firefighters from Mission Township Fire and Rescue and the Crosslake and Nisswa fire departments responded to the fire reported at 1:21 p.m. on the 28000 block of Mission Cutoff, Merrifield.

Capt. Shawn Strehlow of Mission fire said heavy smoke and flames were visible when firefighters arrived on scene. About 25 firefighters responded. Strehlow said firefighters contained the fire right after the fire began to break the ceiling and then they worked on the hot spots.

While on scene, Strehlow said he was not sure how the fire started or where the fire originated. Strehlow said the house is a total loss. He said the basement had heavy smoke and water damage.

The Justins, along with neighbors and their son, watched as firefighters battled the fire. As they stood watching they could see the heavy smoke and flames billowing out through the roof and windows. The fire was mainly in the house, but the attached garage also was smoking.

"We've lived here for 27 years," Beverly Justin said. "Our youngest two (of seven children) grew up here. ... This is the first time anything like this has ever happened."

The Justins said they feel grateful they were not in the home at the time of the fire. They have no pets, so no one was injured.

The couple, who have family in Brainerd to stay with, said when they left in the morning to do errands and go to their appointments in Brainerd, everything at the house was fine. They said they have no idea what happened.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, North Memorial Ambulance, Crow Wing Power and Xcel Energy also assisted on scene.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at