Shortly before 5 p.m. Friday, a neighbor that shares a backyard with the residence at 4150 121st Ave. N.W. called 911 to report a shed was on fire in the back of the neighbor’s garage.
Firefighters reported heavy black smoke as they were driving by Mercy Hospital en route to the scene and called for a general alarm, then on arrival they found the triple attached garage was fully engulfed, according to Coon Rapids Fire Chief John Piper.
But when firefighters attempted to connect to a city fire hydrant on Cree Street, the hydrant was “dry,” Piper said.
According to Rick Bednar, city utilities supervisor, the fire hydrant was frozen. All 913 fire hydrants in the city are flushed out in the fall, but if they get used and the utilities department is not notified, then they become frozen, Bednar said.
Connection was attempted to two nearby city of Anoka hydrants – the homes on the south side of 121st Avenue are in Coon Rapids, while on the north side, which is South Street, they are in Anoka – but special adapters were needed for the connection and that caused a short delay, according to Piper.
However, all Coon Rapids fire trucks carry water on them and water from the three trucks at the scene was used to fight the fire while the hydrant connections were made, Piper said.
In fact, the hydrants were connected about the time all the water was used up from the fire trucks, he said.
While the garage and its contents, which included two vehicles, were destroyed, firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to the house to the west, which was adjacent to the garage, although the heat from the fire did crack three storm windows, according to Piper.
However, the fire did spread into the attic of the home at 4150 121st Ave. N.W. as well as to the living room, which shared a wall with the garage, Piper said.
Both the ceiling and the living room wall adjacent to the garage had to be removed to attack the fire and prevent it from spreading to the rest of the house, he said.
That was accomplished and there only light smoke damage to the remainder of the home, which is presently uninhabitable, Piper said.
“I was very pleased with the way it turned out considering what could have been,” Piper said.
“This was a particularly challenging fire, but the family was able to recover most of their valuables and with insurance, they will be able to make the repairs needed to the house.”
The cause of the fire was accidental – discarded ashes from the fireplace.
According to the Coon Rapids Police report, homeowner Darryl Peterson emptied ashes from the fireplace inside the home into a bag that morning and placed it outside before moving it into a shed behind the garage later in the day after he thought the ashes had cooled.
But Piper said there was wood in the shed and the embers from the ashes set them on fire.
“Ashes from a fireplace or fire pit can remain hot for up to seven days,” he said.
Peter Bodley is at