House deemed total loss after fireFirefighters battled blaze for several hours.
By: Marcus Traxler, The Daily Republic
A house ravaged by fire Saturday has been deemed a total loss.
Owner Boyd Reimnitz had a demolition team remove the burned home with backhoes and dump trucks Saturday and Sunday.
There were no injuries.
The two-story structure, at 600 E. Ash Ave. on the corner of Burr Street and Ash Avenue, was a multi-family house. All residents were accounted for and the family living on the second floor was able to get out safely, as firefighters battled the flames for much of the afternoon Saturday.
Mitchell Assistant Fire Chief Paul Morris said Sunday the division’s investigation has ruled out anything suspicious about the fire and the investigation is ongoing.
Curtis Bucholz and Haley Moore lived together on the second floor. Bucholz’s brother was visiting from the Rapid City area and was staying at the house.
“My brother’s wife was in the bathroom and noticed smoke and saw the bathtub was hot,” Bucholz said. “We got out as fast as we could.”
The fire was reported just before noon.
Nine people were on the second floor of the house and Bucholz said he grabbed water from the kitchen so he could get his family down the hot stairs on the east side of the house. There is only one staircase leading to the upstairs residence.
“We went right outside and poured water down the stairs. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to get out,” he said, adding he didn’t have any time to get anything else out of the house.
Bucholz left without any shoes on and said everything his brother’s family had brought with them was still inside.
Micaela Nelson was working at the Mitchell Public Library when she found out the house was on fire. She lived in the first-floor residence.
“I’m OK. It’s just going to be tough finding out where I’m going to go now,” Nelson said.
Nelson is The Daily Republic’s news clerk.
Nelson was comforted by her friends and said her book club sisters will be there for her. She said the fire crews were able to save some of her important belongings.
“I’ll be all right. Everybody’s OK, and that’s what matters,” she said.
Bucholz and Moore were getting help from the American Red Cross but weren’t sure what the next step would be.
“I have no idea, really,” he said. “We’ll stay with family for now and then see what happens from there.”
Reimnitz owned the structure and leased it to the tenants. He said the house was painted as recently as two weeks ago and the house has had recent electrical upgrades.
“This really sucks,” he said. “These are good tenants. They paid rent on time and they are good people to work with.”
He said he’s owned the property since October 2010.
“A tenant loses everything — how do you get that all back? It’s tough right now,” Reimnitz said.
Authorities blocked off traffic in a one-block radius and units from Ethan, Mount Vernon and Rosedale Colony joined to fight the flames with Mitchell firefighters.
“The equipment they are wearing, it adds about 60 extra pounds, and they are losing fluids quickly,” Morris said. “We’re trying to keep them swapped out as much as we can.”
The temperature was around 90 degrees while firefighters fought the fire, and the wind was gusting to around 30 mph.
Flames billowed from the south and west sides of the house. Morris called the house’s floors “spongy,” and firefighters initially fought the fire from the outside.
After dousing the fire, firefighters worked to knock in the roof before they headed inside the structure. Both Reimnitz and fire crews agreed the whole structure would have to come down for firefighters to proceed putting out the fire.
NorthWestern Energy was on site to turn off the gas line in the area, allowing firefighters to work more aggressively to put out the fire.
On Sunday, only the foundation and front steps remained standing, as crews had knocked down any other outstanding pieces, leaving only rubble.