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Fort Ripley fire destroys home, injures homeowner

Emergency personnel respond to a house fire Sunday, Oct. 14, on Ripley Street in Fort Ripley. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 4
Emergency personnel respond to a house fire Sunday, Oct. 14, on Ripley Street in Fort Ripley. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 4
Emergency personnel respond to a house fire Sunday, Oct. 14, on Ripley Street in Fort Ripley. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 4
Emergency personnel respond to a house fire Sunday, Oct. 14, on Ripley Street in Fort Ripley. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch4 / 4

A Fort Ripley man was transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation late Sunday night, Oct. 14, after he escaped his home as it quickly filled with flames and smoke.

The fire was reported just after 11 p.m. at a mobile home on the 600 block of Ripley Street in Fort Ripley. The home is situated between Little Falls and Brainerd, about a 15-mile drive for both Little Falls and Brainerd firefighters.

"The home was fully engulfed when we arrived on scene," Little Falls Fire Chief Mike Nieman said. The Little Falls Fire Department provides fire coverage in Fort Ripley. Little Falls paged Brainerd firefighters for mutual aid. "The homeowner (Mike Nolta) got out of the house. ... The smoke detectors went off and woke him up. He said the home was full of smoke."

Nieman said when the page came out as a wood stove fire, firefighters thought the fire was outdoors, as typically wood stoves are located outdoors. However, upon arrival that was not the case. The wood stove was inside the mobile home and the entire wall of the home was engulfed.

Nieman said there was no garage or shed on the property, but the fire destroyed the mobile home and the items around it. According to the Crow Wing County property tax records, the estimated building value is $2,500.

Temperatures lingered in the 30s along with flurries. The fire chief said ammunition could be heard going off in the home when he arrived on scene. Little Falls had 17 firefighters on scene battling the fire, along with about seven Brainerd firefighters. Brainerd also brought tender trucks to the scene. Firefighters worked on extinguishing the fire and conducting general overhaul to make sure the fire was completely out. Firefighters cleared the scene just after 1 a.m. Monday.

"The wind started to pick up so we wanted to make sure everything was OK," Nieman said.

Nieman said the homeowner, who already has lung issues, was transported by North Memorial Ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd to be treated for smoke inhalation. The Brainerd hospital had no information on Nolta's condition Monday.

Nieman said Nolta did have pets and they were able to escape.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office and the Minnesota State Patrol assisted at the scene.

Fall safety

Nieman said it's that time of year when people want to warm up their house a bit, using their wood stoves or wood fireplaces. It is a good idea to make sure chimneys are cleaned every fall before people start using them. Nieman said homeowners also should do a fall maintenance check on their water heaters and furnace to make sure they are cleaned.

"Servicing these items and doing routine housekeeping checks is a good measure to take to reduce house fires," Nieman said. "People need to know their heating sources and keep things neat and do maintenance. People also should check their dryers and make sure they change the batteries in their smoke detectors."

According to the National Fire Protection Association, people don't realize heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the winter months.

NFPA tips

• In wood stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood. In pellet stoves, burn only dry, seasoned wood pallets.

• Chimney and stoves should be inspected and cleaned every fall just before heating season.

• Clean the inside of the stove periodically using a wire brush.

• Allow ashes to cool before disposing them. Place ashes in a covered metal container and keep the container 10 feet away from the home and other buildings.

• Stoves need space. Keep all materials that burn at least 3 feet away.

• Install and maintain carbon monoxide alarms outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home.

• Never use an oven to warm a home.

• Turn off portable heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

• Test all smoke alarms once a month. Smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom and also outside each sleeping area and every level of the home.

Facts

• A closed door may slow the spread of smoke, heat and fire.

• Roughly 3 of 5 fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke detectors or no working detectors.

• A person can be poisoned by a small amount of carbon monoxide over a longer period of time or by a large amount of carbon monoxide over a shorter amount of time.

• In 2010, fire departments across the nation responded to an estimated 80,100 calls at which carbon monoxide was found, or an average of nine calls per hour.

• Nearly half of all space heater fires involve electric space heaters.