UPDATE Friday 12 p.m.: Lightning may have sparked garage fire north of Alexandria Friday morning
When Betty and Neal Ostlund heard hail may be coming with the approaching thunderstorm Thursday night, Betty thought she ought to put her car in the garage. Well, her Ford Taurus is still in the garage, hail-damage free with one catch - it's a charred hunk of metal beneath remnants of a scorched structure.
A lightning strike sparked a fire that totally engulfed the building.
"It was kind of a special car," Ostlund said. "It is too bad, but thank God nobody was hurt in the fire." Betty had won the car in a raffle at St. Mary's on her birthday a few years ago.
The Ostlunds have family visiting from California who were staying in the garage apartments when the fire erupted. Mary Kay Wentz was sleeping in a bedroom upstairs of the garage when lightning struck the building around 1:30 a.m.
"I heard a loud crack" said Wentz. "Then there was a smell of electrical burning."
Betty's nephew, Jack Haskins, was also sleeping in the garage. When Jack saw sparks, he went up to the main house to inform the Ostlunds the fire department should be called. Betty already knew something had happened.
"It sounded like a shotgun blast," Betty said.
At approximately 1:49 a.m. Douglas County deputies, Alexandria police and the Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) responded to the scene. Carlos Fire Department and North Ambulance assisted the AFD.
"It doesn't take long to go from smoke to full flames," Betty said. "It was contained in about a half an hour, maybe 45 minutes."
In 1986, Neal Ostlund purchased the property at 808 Bay Lane on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria. The site was previously home to the Blue Shutter's Resort and Summer Place Resort.
"There were a lot of memories in there," said Ostlund's daughter, Julie Rambow, as she glanced at the gaping blackened hole on one side of the garage. Family was gathered in the yard near the remains for coffee on a sunny Friday morning after the blaze.
A preliminary estimate of damage amounts to $150,000. It is presumed that a lightning strike is responsible for the fire at this time. Absolute confirmation that it was storm related will determine if it was an act of God.
See related story Storms leave residents without power, trees down, soggy lawns.
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.