Thunderstorms caused a house fire to spread to a neighboring home in Otsego early Sunday morning, and now neighbors say both homes are a total loss.
The fire started at a home on the 12400 block of 76th Street Northeast around 6 a.m., Albertville Fire Chief Eric Bullen told BringMeTheNews.
When officials got to the scene, the rear of the home was fully engulfed in flames, Bullen said, noting the extremely high heat and strong winds that accompanied the storms caused the fire to spread to a neighboring home.
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Joe Meinhardt, who lives across the street from scene of the fire, told the Star Tribune he heard a crack of thunder before 6 a.m., noting it looked like lighting hit three houses and "just jumped from house to house."
The State Fire Marshals Office is investigating the cause of the fire, Bullen said, but he did not confirm neighbors' reports that lightning caused the initial fire.
Everyone in both houses got out safely and no injuries were reported, Bullen says, with the Star Tribune reporting the family in the second home was hosting a sleepover for their kids.
Community rallies around neighbors
Both homes suffered a lot of damage. Bullen called damage to the home where the fire started "extensive," while neighbors who set up a GoFundMe page for the family said the house was a total loss.
The fire caused "significant" damage to the second home, Bullen notes, and neighbors who set up a GoFundMe page for that family said they're looking at a total loss because of the fire and smoke damage.
The community quickly rallied around the two families, creating fundraising pages and gathering clothes, shoes and other items to help them, according to posts in St. Michael Albertville Bulletin Board Facebook group.
The GoFundMe page for the family who lives in the house that initially started on fire was just $200 short of its goal within two hours of the campaign being created, while the page set up for the second family had raised more than $6,500 in two hours.
Bullen added that the Red Cross has been notified to help the families affected by the fire.
In a news release, the Red Cross said it was helping another Twin Cities family following an apartment fire in North Minneapolis Sunday. Following fires, volunteers with the organization meet with victims to provide help with any emergency needs, as well as offer emotional support and assistance with long-term recovery planning, according to the Red Cross's website.