Christmas Eve fire leaves Rochester family without home - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Christmas Eve fire leaves Rochester family without home


ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Christmas Eve is meant to be joyous and festive, but for Fred Gommels and his family, that feeling turned to danger very quickly.

"My wife heard a thud, like maybe a piece of ice falling off the roof and hitting the side of the house," Gommels said.

They were quick to find smoke coming from their car in the garage and flames engulfed the entire room about 4 p.m. in the 50 block of County Road 16 SE.

"I looked out and I thought that I should open up the garage door to keep the smoke from getting into the house as much," Gommels said.

Fred, his wife and his son, visiting from St. Paul, all went outside and waited for fire crews to arrive. A neighbor, returning from visiting family in Iowa, saw that the crews acted quickly to save the home.

"When we got here, they pretty well had it under control," explains Darrel Greenwaldt, who lives only two houses east of the Gommels. "I guess I paid attention to all the equipment sitting in the roadway, that's more of what caught my eye with the road blocked, but they had it pretty well hosed down by then."

It was their fast action, and one well-built wall, that saved the rest of the home and perhaps themselves, a realization that has their entire family thankful this Christmas day.

"I wouldn't say this is the worst that's ever happened because we've had some other health issues in the past that have caught us by surprise and we made it through those," says Gommels. "You can start over. My wife and I are healthy, our son is healthy, nobody injured."

A fact that the Gommels will remember as they move forward with rebuilding.

Fred Gommels was quick to thank all of those who helped save his home and kept a dangerous situation from becoming even more severe.

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