Firefighters made four attempts to enter a Hermantown home engulfed by flames early Monday but were driven back by extreme heat and unable to save a woman who perished in the blaze.
Patricia Ann Ankarlo, who turned 65 on Friday, died in the fire at 4039 Ankarlo Drive. Her husband, David E. Ankarlo, 66, was able to escape the house and was in fair condition Monday afternoon in the burn unit of Miller-Dwan Medical Center.
The fire was reported at 12:35 a.m. Monday.
Melanie Cole, 25, the victims' granddaughter, was staying in an adjacent house trailer, getting ready for bed, when the fire broke out. She said she lives there to take care of her grandparents, who both had physical disabilities.
"We layed down and I heard my grandpa yelling 'fire' and yelling for my grandma, Pat," Cole said, while standing outside the gutted house Tuesday afternoon.
"We came out in front of the house and the side of the house was already engulfed. We used our water hoses and by the time the fire department got here, it was pretty much too late."
Hermantown Fire Chief Ron Minter said the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, "but we're leaning toward an electrical appliance," he said.
Cole said that neither of her grandparents smoked and didn't allow smoking in the house.
Minter said the fire appeared to have started between the dining room and a storage room. It had spread throughout the first and second floor and had already vented through the roof by the time firefighters from his department, Proctor, Canosia and Solway townships arrived.
Minter said the original part of the house was built of heavy timber in the late 1800s with sheeting and siding added over the years.
The $150,000 building was a total loss. Cole said her grandparents once operated a full-fledged farm at the 10-acre homestead, where they raised six children.
The couple had a smaller farming operation there in recent years. Chickens and roosters were pecking through the debris Monday afternoon. Two goats were in a small shed in the backyard.
Two dogs and a cat died in the fire. Minter said a member of the victims' family told him that the dogs would never leave Patricia Ankarlo's side.
"And they didn't," he said. "We found the dogs right with the woman."
Minter said an autopsy was being conducted to determine her cause of death.
Cole said that her grandmother had been through neck and foot surgery and was scheduled to have hip replacement surgery next month. She said her grandfather has had numerous back surgeries.
In addition to being a homemaker, "Grandma Pat" had once worked at Kmart and taught ceramics, her granddaughter said. Cole said her grandfather is a former Marine and worked as a furniture and appliance mover, a trucker and a blacksmith.
"She was the kindest, most generous person I ever knew," Cole said of her grandmother. "Ever since I was a little kid, my grandma, whether she had the money or the means to do it or not, if anybody needed help, her and my grandpa were there to help them."
Distributed by the Associated Press