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Everyone safe in Wells fire

Saturday morning blaze leaves 20 looking for new places to stay

August 13, 2017
Katie Mullaly and Chuck Hunt - Register Staff Writers (kmullaly@faribaultcountyregister.com, chunt@faribaultcountyregister.com) , Faribault County Register

An early morning fire caused extensive damage to the Wellington Estates Apartments in Wells on Saturday, Aug. 5.

The good news is that all of the residents were able to escape without any injuries being reported.

The call was reported at 7:27 a.m. that there was a fire at the building which once was the Wells Hospital.

Article Photos

A close up look at the damage to the top floor of the Wellington Estates Apartments in Wells

Wells police officers were quickly on the scene and alerted all of the residents to leave the apartment building immediately.

Eight fire departments from around the area quickly responded to the call as well as other emergency personnel. Included were the Wells Fire Department, Alden Fire Department, Blue Earth Fire Department, Bricelyn Fire Department, Easton Fire Department, Kiester Fire Department, Minnesota Lake Fire Department and the Walters Fire Department.

Also assisting at the scene were the Wells Ambulance, South Central EMS, and the Faribault County Sheriff's Office.

The State Fire Marshall was also on the scene and has determined the cause of the fire was electrical.

Most of the fire was in the roof area, between the old hospital roof and the newer apartment building roof, according to local authorities.

Also according to reports, there were 14 units in the apartment building, with 12 of them occupied. Reports also stated that 20 persons were displaced from their homes due to the fire.

Faribault County Chief Deputy Sheriff Scott Adams said there are a variety of agencies working with the people who lost their homes.

"One of our primary duties there was to make sure everyone was safe and accounted for, and then help find them some help," Adams said.

The American Red Cross also sent out a notice that they were assisting the families as much as they can.

The community of Wells was also helping the families and individuals who were affected by the fire, and the churches of Wells were also assisting. Many people and businesses are donating items for the victims of the fire.

The Wellington Estates Fire Relief Fund has been established at Wells Federal Bank in Wells, according to the city of Wells Facebook page.

In addition, a GoFundMe page has been set up to raise funds for the residents.

David Bixby and his wife told of their first hand accounts. While David's wife was already at work, their niece was getting ready to take their dog Chester for a morning walk. That's when Chester started barking at the apartment complex and Bixby's niece noticed an odd brown discoloration on the apartment's roof on the south side.

"I went outside and said it didn't look right so we just started knocking on our neighbors doors," said Bixby, who served the United States in the Vietnam War.

Other eyewitnesses living in the apartment complex stated multiple parties heard a large boom the night before, but since some of the residents were used to fireworks going off, they thought nothing of it.

"What really concerned me was that none of our fire alarms went off," said one eye witness. "At least until after the fire department was already there. And the dates on our fire extinguishers were pretty old, too."

Over 92 tons of water were used to put out the blaze, as well as other fire-retardant chemicals. Those may be good for putting out fires, but not for a person's belongings.

"At first we were asked to go into the apartment building one at a time and we were told we had two hours to get as much stuff as we could," said Bixby. "That didn't fly, so they gave us three days."

Three days to get everything out. The twelve separate tenants and their families did what they could to save personal mementos, family heirlooms, and the necessities in that short time.

"The thing is, we don't have anywhere to put our stuff. Thankfully, we have a camper, but some people had to go out of town to get storage units for their belongings," said Bixby.

Given the dire circumstances, there is one thing that Bixby noticed and noticed quickly.

"The response from the community, itself, was incredible. The Red Cross was there handing out whatever they had to help us, people have clothes and things that they need already donated, even mattresses and furniture," said Bixby. "One thing's for sure, Wells is definitely a tight family community and if we need help, that family community shows up and just starts asking 'how can I help?'"

 
 

 

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