This house in Brownsville was one of two Houston County homes lost to recent fires.
This house in Brownsville was one of two Houston County homes lost to recent fires.

A pair of house fires destroyed the homes of two Houston County families last week. Luckily, no one was hurt in either incident.

Members of the Houston Volunteer Fire Department were the first to arrive at a fire at 1487 S. Ridge Road on Saturday, Dec. 7. Unfortunately, the blaze was too big to put out by the time help arrived, and the structure was a total loss. Fire Marshal Tim Jergenson told the Rochester Post Bulletin that the 911 call came in at 3:42 p.m. Located in Mound Prairie Township, the rental home stood about 8 miles northeast of Houston, to the north of Mound Prairie.

Jergenson reported that "the fire was across the roof line and all across the attic," when emergency responders showed up. The Houston VFD called for mutual aid from the Hokah and Ridgeway fire departments, and approximately 40 firefighters arrived at the scene.

The persons who rented the older farmhouse were not inside when firefighters arrived, and reports vary as to who called in the incident. One report says a passing motorist phoned for help. The cause of the blaze may never be known, Jergenson said, but a chimney fire appears likely. Firefighters reported that about all that could be done was monitoring and cleanup. An excavator was eventually called in to knock down the remains of the house.

Four days later, an early morning blaze destroyed a home in Brownsville.

At 7:20 a.m., Brownsville Fire and Rescue arrived at 806 Main, finding smoke billowing from the home. "The firefighters opened the door to the basement, and there was fire," Assistant Chief Dave Guckelberger told the La Crosse Tribune.

Guckelberger served as incident commander, calling in mutual aid from Caledonia, Hokah, and Eitzen. About 35 firefighters were on scene for nearly five hours.

Brownsville Fire and Rescue Lieutenant Valiree Green spoke to the Herald about the incident. "We know it started in the basement," she confirmed, "and that's where the wood stove is."

Efforts to extinguish the blaze were hampered by multiple rooflines and wall spaces that trapped flames, due to remodeling work that had been performed on the structure over the years.

"Also, the cold was not a help," Green added. "But we managed to protect adjacent structures."

The Minnesota State Fire Marshal's Office reviewed the incident with firefighters. The wood stove remains the most likely cause.

A family of three lived at the house. Only a mother and son were home at the time of the fire. They escaped the fire along with their pets.

The American Red Cross (ARC) reported that a team of trained volunteers assisted the families, providing food and clothing. Red Cross volunteers also provided canteen meal service to firefighters in Brownsville.

"The Red Cross will continue to provide support to address the immediate needs of those affected," ARC spokesman Kyle Kriegl stated.

Donations for the Brownsville victims are being collected at the New Albin Savings Bank (New Albin) and Dairyland Power Credit Union (La Crosse).