Elderly Coon Rapids woman escapes fire; home uninhabitable

by Peter Bodley
Managing Editor

Fire destroyed the garage of a Coon Rapids townhouse and left the unit itself uninhabitable the late afternoon of Feb. 24.

Coon Rapids firefighters battled a townhouse fire the late afternoon of Feb. 24. Photo courtesy of Coon Rapids Fire Department

But it could have been a lot worse because the elderly resident was able to escape the fire with only a minor injury.

“We were very, very fortunate that the resident was able to get out with only a minor injury and we were able to stop the fire at the one unit,” said Coon Rapids Fire Chief John Piper.

The fire at 13144 Vintage St. N.W., Coon Rapids, was called in at 4:43 p.m. Feb. 24.

Coon Rapids Police Community Service Officer Brandon Taheri, patrolling in the area, was first at the scene.

Taheri saw fire and smoke coming from the garage and front of the house, then went round the back and found an elderly woman on the deck of the unit with no other way of escaping the fire.

According to the Coon Rapids Police report, he was able to coax the woman to jump off the balcony some 10 feet into the arms of Taheri and a couple of local residents, preventing her from hitting the ground.

The woman, Harriet Gaveske, 78, was taken to the hospital for treatment of a hand injury.

According to Piper, back in July, Gaveske had called the fire department to report a faulty smoke detector.

The fire department replaced the smoke detector in the ceiling for her, Piper said.

While she was taking a nap in her bed, she was awakened by the sound of the smoke detector, he said.

The fire started in the garage, which was gutted along with a vehicle inside, Piper said.

But fire damage inside the split-entry unit was contained to the foyer, although the service door between the townhouse and garage was badly charred, he said.

However, there was heavy smoke and water damage throughout the unit, said Greg Leciejewski, fire inspector.

Arriving firefighters fought the blaze aggressively with lots of water very quickly and that prevented the fire from spreading, according to Piper.

The townhouse was one of the middle two units in a four-unit complex and only the attic in the garage of the townhouse unit to the north had any fire damage, Piper said.

“There was only light smoke damage in the other units,” he said.

A general alarm was struck prior to arrival after responding firefighters received information that the black smoke could be seen from Crooked Lake and Coon Rapids boulevards.

On arrival, firefighters were greeted with heavy fire coming from of the garage, entryway and attic space above the garage.

Mutual aid was called for from the Andover, Anoka-Champlin and Fridley fire departments at the scene as well as from Brooklyn Park and Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View fire departments to staff the Coon Rapids fire stations, the fire department run report states.

According to Det. Brian Eychaner, Coon Rapids Police, the cause of the fire was smoking related.

Loss, including property and contents, was estimated at $124,000.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]