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Man hurt in kitchen fire

An early-morning fire Tuesday, June 5, that started in the kitchen of an Alexandria home sent a man to the hospital with injuries.

The fire was reported just after 5 a.m. at 123 N. Oak St. Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said a grease fire on the stove caused substantial damage to the kitchen, and smoke damage throughout the other rooms.

The lone occupant of the house, Steven Lindstrom, was taken by ambulance to Alomere Health, suffering from smoke inhalation and burns. He was transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where he was listed in critical condition Wednesday.

Karrow praised the city's police department for rescuing Lindstrom from the home and closing the door to deprive the fire of oxygen.

Among the firefighters responding to the call were Joe Waldorf, a 22-year veteran of the department who little more than 12 hours earlier had been at the wheel of a fire truck when it was involved in a crash, and Nathan Borden, who was riding with Waldorf. Both firefighters were taken to Alomere Health with injuries after the crash and were treated and released.

"That didn't surprise me," Karrow said of the two responding to the next fire call. "Actually, I would expect that from any of the firefighters."

At about 4:35 p.m. Monday, the two were responding to a grass fire in a 2016 Ford F350 grass rig. With the truck's lights and sirens activated, they were headed south on Highway 29 as they entered an intersection with 50th Avenue.

The driver of a GMC Sierra West, Joshua Hills of Alexandria, had a green light as he entered the intersection going west on 50th Avenue, according to the State Patrol accident report, and struck the driver's side door of the fire truck. Hills was uninjured.

First fire truck crash

Karrow could not recall a previous crash involving an Alexandria fire truck responding to a fire.

"I don't think it's ever happened here," he said. Karrow did recall that many years ago a fire truck was on its way back from a manufacturer in Osceola, Wisconsin, when a tire blew out. That truck wound up in a ditch with extensive damage, he said.

Karrow was meeting with an insurance adjuster Thursday, and while they will save tools, the light bar, radio and anything else that is salvageable, the truck was badly damaged.

"I'm sure they will deem it totaled," he said.

The fire rig was responding to a second grass fire, after returning from an initial call off of I-94. Karrow said the first fire, which involved approximately three-quarters of an acre, was started by a rim that rolled off the wheel of a semi. The firefighters were on their way back to the station when another call came, this one for a small grass fire also in the direction of the interstate.

"To be told of the second one and then hear of the accident, and I'm on the interstate, was the most terrible feeling," Karrow said. "We got the fire put out, and I was pretty antsy (when) no one was answering the radio, because they were taking care of their own."

He said they had another close call while on I-94 Monday.

"We actually staged trucks back a half-mile so people will get over. This car came just screaming past us, and State Patrol pulled her over. She said she didn't think anything of it," Karrow said.

Many signal lights are now equipped with what Karrow called opticons, which are activated by sirens to give emergency vehicles green lights. But not all traffic signals in Alexandria are equipped in that fashion.

Standard operating procedure includes wearing seat belts and slowing down at red lights, he said. Firefighters take defensive driving courses, and in Alexandria they also are required to obtain a commercial driver's license within their first five years on the job, something Karrow said is not a state requirement.

"There needs to be situational awareness on everybody's part," he said. "If you see lights, just please pull over."

He also cautioned drivers to listen for sirens, and if they see one emergency vehicle, to be on the lookout for others. Multiple fire trucks will respond to fires, and often are accompanied by law enforcement vehicles or ambulances.

It was part of a busy 24 hours for the Alexandria department. In addition to all that, they had regular Monday night training, and following the Tuesday morning fire, they responded to a gas leak on County Road 45.

"It was a four-inch main, but it was out by a field, so there were no structures or anything," Karrow said. CenterPoint Energy responded to shut off the leak.