A mother and her seven children were left homeless on Tuesday after an early morning fire destroyed their rental home in Elk Mound.

According to Elk Mound Fire Chief Les Shaefer, the smoke detectors were working at 1:30 a.m. when Paula Gunderson’s 15-year-old son smelled smoke.

“He ran upstairs to get his mom and everybody else up,” Shaefer said. “He was able to get them out through an upstairs window and onto the front porch roof.”

Jumping off the roof, the chief added, the teen ran to the next door neighbor’s house to get a ladder and was able to get the rest of his family to safety. Other than two of the children who were treated with oxygen for smoke inhalation, no one was injured.

The origin of the fire was in the northwest corner of the basement, but because of the amount of damage, the cause of the fire is not able to be determined, Shaefer said. Around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Elk Mound firefighters returned to the scene to deal with a small rekindling of the fire.

With the fire contained to the basement, the chief said he was in and out of the house at 211 University Street several times Tuesday afternoon along with the insurance adjuster and owners Amy and Mohammad Spagnoletti-Hashla. There was no visible sign or smell of smoke, and the fire department’s thermal imaging camera registered zero for heat.

A few hours later, however, firefighters were called to the scene again at 11 p.m. “When we got there, it was fully involved,” Shaefer said, noting that this time the fire had rekindled under the front porch.

With the wind coming out of the west, the house to the east of the burning building was in danger. The crew was able to cool the residence enough so that there was only minor damage to its vinyl siding.

The rental house, however, was declared a total loss. Damages to the structure and contents is estimated at more than $100,000.

Firefighters from Menomonie, Colfax and the Chippewa Fire District were also at the scene. The Red Cross is assisting the family.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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