Forest Lake fire leaves two families without homes

- Two Forest Lake families are without a home this holiday season after a Saturday night fire. 

The blaze started at the 1100 block of 9th Avenue SW at about 8:30 p.m.

“My dad said it looked like it was daytime in the backyard so we went out there and the whole shed was on fire,” said Joey Odden, who lived at the home but was at a friend’s when the fire started.

Odden along with his four-year-old son Harvey, dad Tracy Cain, and his stepmom Patty, all called the house their home.

"[The fire] started in the back of the house, but I don't know how yet," Odden said. 

Everyone inside managed to escape unscathed but watching the scene unfold was nothing short of traumatic.

“It wasn’t real until today,” Odden said, “[I couldn’t] do anything about it but stand there and watch. It sucked,” he recounted.

“With the vinyl siding that’s on there, it acts as an accelerant sometimes, so when they get going there it goes pretty fast,” said Forest Lake Deputy Fire Chief Doug Berglund.

Berglund also confirmed the home’s attached garage contained gas and oil and power-fueled the fire.

“It appeared to go pretty quick,” nodded Berglund.

The hasty flames then spread to a rental home next door to 1114 9th Ave. SW. The couple who lived there wasn’t home at the time and neither was their daughter. Fortunately, fast acting fire crews rescued their four pets, two cats and two dogs.

Approximately 50 firefighters battled the blaze from five nearby city departments: Forest Lake, Hugo, Chisago, Wyoming and Scandia.

Berglund said crews spent five hours on the scene.

“We have empathy towards the victims of these kinds of situations and we do our best to get them through this and make this as easy as possible,” said Berglund who said both the families have support of friends, relatives and the Red Cross.

Meanwhile, on Sunday afternoon, Odden, his step-brother Taylor Marx and Cain spent much of the day boarding up what’s left of the home to protect it from looters Forest Lake police spotted attempting to scrap the home Sunday morning.

“What are people thinking? The family just lost everything and you’re trying to take what’s left of what they have?” Marx asked. “It’s Christmas time and they have nothing left right now,” he continued.

While what the families do have left is each other, the disaster’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

“We’re just going to kind of take it one step at a time because we really don’t know what’s next,”Odden said.

The exact cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

"They've lost everything here and it's going to be tough," Berglund avouched.

Marx launched a GoFundMe page to get Odden and the Cains through the holidays. If you’d like to support his cause click here.

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