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Fire destroys 130-year-old Afton home

Firefighters attack a house fire Tuesday, May 29, on 15th Street in Afton. Submitted photo

Reuben Moll sat outside his garage Wednesday, just a few feet from the remains of the place he had called home since 1945.

At age 91, the Afton man now enters a transition period: Moll must find a new place to live after his home was destroyed Tuesday by fire.

Words were hard for Moll - who was not home at the time of the fire - to conjure as he tried recalling his first sight of the burned-up home.

"A lot of things," he said as tears welled in his eyes.

A neighbor, fearing that Moll was inside at the time of the fire, rushed to the burning house on 15th Street, just east of Manning Avenue. There, the man freed Moll's dog Bear.

"The family is very grateful for (the neighbor's) quick actions," said Laurie Bruber, a granddaughter of Moll's. "He is truly our hero."

Moll, who raised five children in the house, was staying with his daughter until permanent housing could be arranged.

Firefighters, first alerted to the blaze at 12:52 p.m., fought the house fire for several hours. Trucks from a total of seven agencies - Lower St. Croix Valley, Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Lake Elmo, Bayport, Mahtomedi and Oakdale - responded to the scene.

Jim Stanley, deputy fire chief for Lower St. Croix Valley, said the multiple agencies were required to haul in water since the fire occurred in an area without fire hydrants.

The blaze destroyed the 132-year-old home. According to the Washington County Assessor's Office, two additions had been built on the home in subsequent years.

Stanley said those additions - in connection with the age of the home - made fighting the fire a challenge.

"It makes for a difficult fire," he said.

He said a Bayport firefighter was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul with breathing- and heat-related issues. The man was treated and released, Stanley said.

The fire was believed to be burning for up to 30 minutes before firefighters arrived, Stanley said.

He said the fire likely began in a wall in the kitchen.

The cause of the fire was related to housekeeping issues, Stanley said. He said numerous household items were piled up around a heater.

"That's what caused the fire," he said.

The discovery eliminated early suspicions that the cause may have been related to a power surge or faulty wiring in the house.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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