Todd Twp. cabin lucky to be saved from chimney fire

According to Fire Chief Joe Carlson, if a drywall contractor hadn't happened to be working there at the time, the fire may have spread to the surrounding structure before it was called in.

Park Rapids firefighters battle a chimney fire that a contractor luckily spotted on Feb. 1, 2023 while working at a cabin in Todd Township.
Contributed / Joe Carlson

The absent owners of a cabin can thank a contractor who was luckily working on the home for spotting a chimney fire on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in Todd Township.

According to Park Rapids Fire Chief Joe Carlson, firefighters were paged out at 1:40 to a residence on the 12000 block of Far Portage Drive.

Carlson recalled having to use a plat map to find the address, due to Verizon cellular service being down at the time. He said five apparatus, including one engine and two tankers, responded to the call, and one vehicle was sent back to the base upon sizing up the scene. A total of 22 firefighters responded, with 12 personnel actually working the scene.

Upon arrival, they found the chimney on the back of the cabin burned from top to bottom.

“It looked like the origin of the fire was the clean-out at the bottom,” said Carlson. “Maybe some dust and other things had built up in there and ignited, and it burnt up the outside of the building.”


Carlson said a contractor working on drywall of what he believed to be a secondary residence. “It’s not someplace that somebody would be going to every day,” he said.

Carlson said that according to the contractor, he was about to leave when he noticed smoke outside the back window and thought it was normal chimney smoke. However, upon going outside, the contractor saw that it wasn’t coming from the top of the chimney.

The contractor investigated further, then called for help, Carlson said – adding that this was also hard to do with the Verizon outage. It took two or three attempts to reach dispatch, he said.

“Had he not been there to call us right away, it would have likely been a full structure fire,” Carlson said. “So, that was pretty lucky.”

He said the fire had pretty much burned off when firefighters arrived, so it took less than 100 gallons and about an hour to knock it down. No one was hurt, and there was minimal damage to the structure.

Carlson said the fire mainly burned the chimney, spreading a little into the side of the cabin. Later in the evening, when the fire rekindled, the chimney was completely pulled down to reveal a hot spot inside the walls of the cabin.

“I don’t know that we even used any water on the rekindle,” he said. “We just cut out some stuff and put that on the ground.”

Considering that the cabin was already being remodeled, Carlson gave a low dollar estimate of the damage.


“Anytime we have a fire and nobody gets hurt and we don’t break anything, that’s a win,” he said. “We overcame some struggles, obviously, with communication, being phones were down. We had to revert back to using maps. It was a good refresher on that. We get a little complacent in using technology to do all these things, and we need to be diligent in being able to do it without any of that.”

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