When Somerset residents Michelle and Scott Beauvais saw smoke and fire coming from a home along Highway 35, the couple immediately called 911 and took a detour to see what they could do to help.
"There was not even a thought about if you do or don't stop to help. That is just who we are. There wasn't even a conversation between my husband and I," said Michelle Beauvais. "We pulled up and we could hear the dogs bellowing, which is a sound I will never forget, because they were burning up."
The 911 call came in at 5:18 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, for a house fire at 727 72nd St.in the Town of Somerset. According to St. Croix County property records, the house is owned by Jason Kammerud.
"This was a standard house fire. The wind made the fire tougher as we had fire that extended into the adjacent picked corn field. This means more people and resources are needed," said Somerset Fire & Rescue Assistant Fire Chief Jason Crotty. "Also a car that was on fire near the home. All three of these fires creates its own dangers and makes it tough."
Crotty said the fire department - which responded with an engine, a tender and a brush truck - were on scene for four hours and 23 minutes.
"The fires are so fast and I didn't realize that it would go up that quickly. The house was almost gone less than half an hour after we called it in," Beauvais said.
According to Crotty, the fire was under control about 30 minutes after the department arrived on scene, but extensive work went into making sure all hot spots were extinguished before the department cleared the scene. Also responding to the scene were St. Joseph Fire, New Richmond Fire, Osceola Fire and Lakeview EMS.
"The residents had left the house about 20 minutes before the 911 call came in. When we got to the scene, the house was pretty well engulfed," said Somerset Fire Chief Travis Belisle. "It appeared that the fire had started in the garage area. The house is a total loss."
According to Belisle, the explosions neighbors heard were caused by propane tanks the owners had stored in the garage. The department was unable to determine the actual cause of the fire.
"We could see the smoke and then we could see the fire on the bottom right of the house across the field. We could see it was a small fire at that time," Beauvais said. "When we got there, the front of the house was not on fire yet. We were there not long after it started, minutes I would say. I ran up to the house to see if anybody was in there and then things started exploding so we got back."
When the couple spotted the fire, they were on Highway 35 driving back from picking up their son from a friend's house.
According to Beauvais, there were five dogs in the house at the time of the fire, but only one of the two dogs Scott Beauvais was able to pull out of the house lived.
"The fence was red hot and my husband singed his beard and burned his hands, but he got that dog out and he also got a puppy that was on fire out as well. I started working on the puppy, getting the flames out, and brought him to the vet," Beauvais said. "Thank goodness for Countryside Vet Clinic (in New Richmond), because they went in there to take care of these dogs on a Saturday night. I don't even know which vet it was because the puppy passed away as we were pulling up to the front door of Countryside. He was alive right up until we passed Gibby's (Lanes). When the vet said that the puppy had passed, I just lost it."
After receiving the news about the puppy, the couple returned to the 72nd Street home to tell the homeowners that they had tried to save the puppy and their other dogs, but were only able to save one dog.
"We had never met these people before or anything, but you never know. That is what a small community is. You don't even think to not help somebody, you just do it," Beauvais said. "When we pulled up to see what was going on, we could hear the dogs screaming through our car windows. At that point, there was no question about helping. We are animal lovers. So we knew we had to try and help save them.
"I just pray for them and give them good vibes. Losing four dogs in a fire is just heartwrenching."