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Neighbors Wake Family In Burning House

December 10, 2012, 4:52 PM by Shawn Neisteadt

Neighbors Wake Family In Burning House
GARRETSON, SD -

A house is a total loss following a fire south of Garretson.  But the situation could have been much worse if it wasn't for the quick action of passing neighbors. 

Smoke billowed into the frigid morning skyline from a farm house south of Garretson.  In this area of the county, neighbors may not live close together but they always lend a helping hand.  Tim Ruppert lives a half mile away and was one of the first to notice something was wrong.

"I could see the flames on the east side of the house.  My neighbor to the east of me, Lori, was following and we both pulled into the driveway.  She called 911 and I entered the house, started yelling and got the family up and the dogs and got them out," Ruppert said.

Thanks to that quick action, authorities say despite the house being a complete loss, nobody was hurt.

"As soon as we got them out of the house, Lori and I tried to grab a few personal possessions for them, hauled them out of the house.  By that time, the sheriff (deputy) showed up and we waited for the fire trucks," Ruppert said.

The fire burned for several hours.  It took several different departments including Garretson, Valley Springs and Brandon to bring it under control. 

"These guys don't come to fires to let them burn; they come to put them out and they're trying their hardest," Minnehaha County Emergency Management Director Lynn DeYoung said.

But doing so was no easy task.  DeYoung says the home's age and floor plan made this a challenging fire. The rural location meant firefighters had to truck in water and the frigid temperatures didn't help either.

"Everything is freezing.  Not only is the water freezing on their hoses and things but also we've got firemen out there that are going to turn into icicles because the water is freezing on their gear," DeYoung said.

And while the volunteer firefighters sign up for this difficult work, the neighbor who sprung into action says even he's surprised he entered the burning home.

"Yeah, but it wasn't that bad when I first went in.  But, I would do it again," Ruppert said.

The cause of the fire is believed to be electrical but investigators are still working to pinpoint it.  Minnehaha County Emergency Management and the Red Cross also responded to the scene.  They helped set up a warming shelter to prevent firefighters from suffering weather-related injuries.

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