Fire totals Austin duplex

Published 4:22 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

A 1,500 square-foot Austin duplex was totaled Monday after a fire burned through the Second Street Northeast residence shortly before noon. No one was injured.

Austin Fire Chief Dan Wilson said the blaze started when a young child ignited a comic book while playing with a small propane lighter.

The comic book was lying on a bed.

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Wilson said that from what he was told, an adult babysitter and two young children were in the house when the fire started.

“I’m just glad this ended up the way it did,” Wilson said. “The house is destroyed, but we’re happy there was no loss of life and no injuries.”

Wilson also said there were smoke alarms inside the house, but added that none of them had batteries.

Lowell Saterdalen of Stewartville owns the duplex and said he was in the area Monday to check on the top floor that had recently been vacated and to mow the lawn. He said a family rents the lower portion of the residence.

“It was not intentionally done, so you can’t get too excited about it,” he said.

Saterdalen added that he started to see smoke when he was filling his lawn mower with gas.

“It was very heavy, black smoke,” he said.

Wilson said the residence is a total loss, and Saterdalen confirmed that the building will be torn down, although he wasn’t sure if he will have another duplex built.

“There isn’t a whole lot of sense to repair something that will always smell and not look very good,” he said.

Wilson said Monday’s incident has two messages.

Number one, he urged parents to educate their children about the dangers of playing with matches or lighters.

“It starts with adult supervision,” he said. “Matches and lighters are tools for grownups, they are not toys for children to play with. That’s number one, then you get to the smoke alarms.”

Wilson said his fire department has more than 100 smoke alarms in the station’s basement that were purchased through grants and that residents can have for free. He also said local firefighters will check household smoke alarms if residents wish them to do so. Residents can call 433-3405.

At least four fire engines, more than a dozen fire personnel and a representative from the Austin Police Department arrived on the scene.