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Historic Red Wing home burns

A treasured piece of Red Wing's historic district was

severely damaged Monday after a fast-moving fire raced through the top levels of the Joss-Willard House.

Firefighters said the blaze at 821 W. Third St. was swift and difficult to manage.

"It spread fast," said Red Wing fire Chief Mike Amendolar.

"Once the fire got going, there really wasn't anything to stop it."

No residents were in the house at the time of the fire, said the home's owner, Dr. Everett Hughes, who has a wife, Shannon, and four children.

"It's just a home, I guess," he said from the sidewalk across the street, watching his house burn.

Amendolar said two firefighters were treated for dehydration - temperatures reached 88 degrees in Red Wing - while another sustained a minor shoulder injury.

Officials said the blaze began while painters were using

small torches to remove paint from the home's eaves. The painting

crew told firefighters a bird's nest stuck in the eaves ignited in the process.

Roof collapsed

Dozens of neighbors and onlookers packed the area, surveying the fire. Flames were seen shooting from the roof of the home - which partially collapsed - as well as the rear of the structure.

Among the onlookers was Dean Adams, who said he lived in the house until 2000. He followed the column of smoke pouring from the blaze.

When he spotted the house ablaze, Adams said he was in disbelief.

"It's very sad to see because it's one of the most beautiful older historic homes in town," he said.

Adams noted the 15-foot ceilings on the home's main floor. A spiral staircase added to its historic charm, Adams added.

Scott Will, the acting fire captain on the scene, said the fire was largely contained to a network of attic spaces in the house.

The main floor of the house sustained heavy water damage, he noted.

Access limited

A narrow alleyway with low power lines kept fire trucks from accessing the rear of the home, Will said, making it "10 times as difficult" to manage.

Depending on what - if anything - is salvageable in the home, the loss could ring a solemn note for the neighborhood, said Steve Kohn, who heads up the city's Heritage Preservation Commission.

"It means a lot to the district," he said while watching the fire. "Hard as you may try, you're not going to get something to match this in the district."

He said the house is considered a "pivotal" building in the city's west residential historic district.

The Italianate-style brick home was built in 1876. Among its more notable features are the bracketed cornice interrupted by gabled eyebrow windows, and a wrap-around porch with classical detailing, Kohn said.

Amendolar said it is unknown how much in the home may be

salvagable. He praised his crew for containing the fire quickly.

Firefighters were just blocks away on an inspection when the call came in at 1:42 p.m. The scene was cleared shortly before 8 p.m.

"I like to think we have a lot of these old buildings because of our fire department and our quick response," he said, noting that the Sheldon Theatre has also sustained major fire damage in the past.