Created: 12/05/2013 6:59 PM KSTP.com
By: Dan Conradt
(ABC 6 News) -- It was a devastating fire that destroyed an Albert Lea couple’s home.
And it forced fire crews to fight more than a fire – they had to fight the weather.
"The house was kind of smoky" Judy Raatz told us while standing in a neighbor’s garage, watching fire fighters try to knock down flames leaping from the roof of her home.
Judy Raatz and her husband burn wood in the furnace of their home on the edge of Albert Lea, so a smoky smell isn't that unusual.
"But it kept getting a little stronger, and I just kept checking and then the last time I went down to check I saw around the chimney there was flames coming up."
That’s when she called the fire department.
“Wen we arrived on scene it was in the back of the house, and it did spread very quickly across the house because of the wind" said the Albert Lea Township Fire Department’s Matt Levorson.
“And the roof is completely consumed, so I'm assuming it went through the whole house" Judy raatz added.
The township fire department quickly called for help in fighting the fire.
"Water delivery is an issue with a fire this big” Matt Levorson told us. “We've got a lot of trucks going back and forth."
At the time the temperature was in the single digits above zero, and the wind chill was in the double digits below.
"Being out there in weather this cold, it makes it very difficult to fight a fire. You've got a lot of ice out there with as much water as we're putting on this fire" Matt Levorson explained. “Going up and down ladders, those rungs freeze very quickly."
A neighbor opened his heated garage to let fire-fighters warm up.
"With cold hands you can't function very well” the township fire department’s Matt Levorson said. “You need to keep that dexterity to do some of the fine details like hook up hoses."
And for Judy Raatz, the impact of Thursday's fire is still sinking in.
"I was kind of sick to my stomach” Judy Raatz told us. “All my Christmas presents are gone."
But despite the loss, she knows it could have been worse.
"I know god protected us. We got out of there fine."