This home, owned by Curt and Jodi Caverly, sits next to Wacouta Bay and was ravaged by fire around midnight Feb. 13-14, 2021. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

WACOUTA — Curt Caverly woke up Saturday night and sensed something was wrong. He got up and realized that the house was on fire. He woke his wife, Jodi, and two children, Hudson, 9, and Piper, 6, and got everyone outside.

“While we were inside, there was no smoke or open flames,” Jodi said. “We got dressed as warm as we could as fast as we could. We went outside and called 911 and waited until the firemen, police, and sheriff arrived.”

Several neighbors came to help, and one neighbor, John Westerburg, opened his house so they could get inside and away from the 17-degree-below-zero cold, according to Jodi, and she said that firefighter Trent Wendtland talked to her several times.

“He asked if there were wedding rings, family heirlooms, or things of high importance inside and where they were located,” she said. “He went in and was able to recover everything we asked for.”

“We had not even lived there for one year,” Jodi said. “It is considered a complete loss, but, hopefully, we’ll be able to rebuild it to exactly what it was, because it’s our dream home.”

Jodi said she and her family are appreciative of the support they have received and for the excellent work the firefighters did in the middle of the night.

“They did what they could in a tricky location with below zero temperatures,” she said. “That was not ideal.

Red Wing Fire Chief Mike Warner said the department stays aware of temperatures and prepares ahead of time to make sure that appropriate clothing is available for everyone.

“We are expecting to be outside in the elements at any given time,” he said. “We prepare for the worst and hope we do not have to go out.”

Warner said that at times of extreme temperatures, the crews will call for mutual aid from other fire departments earlier than normal, because they expect the work cycles of the firefighters will be shortened and they will need to change out the crews more often.

Crews often use the cabs of their trucks to warm up, or sometimes, community members offer assistance, as was the case Saturday night when Mark Poss opened his workshop as a place where firefighters could take a break and warm up.

Low temperatures and possible bad roads also mean that the “incident commander anticipates any future needs based on the incident and calls for them well in advance, knowing everything will take longer to get to the scene,” Warner said.

There were no fire hydrants near the location Saturday night, so tender trucks had to drive to hydrants near the National Guard Armory in Red Wing, fill up, and return to the scene.

“We did set up a portable tank,” Warner explained. “We set the tank in a position where the water tenders can offload their water and drive to the nearest fill site in a fast, flawless loop.”

With temperatures so low, the fire crews must keep the water moving to prevent it from freezing.

“This is accomplished by adding a hose line from the fire pump back into the portable water tank to recirculate the water and keep it from freezing,” Warner said. “The fire engines that are not being used for pumping have an internal recirculating line that moves the water from the pump back into the onboard water tank to accomplish this, as well.”

Goodhue, Lake City, Ellsworth, Miesville, Cannon Falls, and Zumbrota fire departments as well as the Ellsworth Ambulance Service responded to the scene and also provided fire station coverage. Red Wing Public Works, Goodhue County Sheriff’s Office, Goodhue County Dispatch and Xcel Energy also assisted with the incident.

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