Passersby alert residents to fire

Sarah Riley was awakened by the sound of Greg Estlund knocking at her door Tuesday morning, telling the mother of three that her home was on fire.

“I was shaking,” Riley said. “We didn’t know until this guy was knocking at the door.”

Riley, her children and her brother were among those who made it safely out of the of the apartment house at 1227 First Ave. N. because of Estlund and another passerby, Nick Meyer.

Both men noticed smoke coming out of the second floor of the building at about 7:20 a.m. and each called 911. Estlund was driving by on First Avenue North, and Meyer was on his way to work.

They began going door to door to make sure any people inside knew the five-apartment structure was on fire.

“We started knocking on doors and getting people up,” Estlund said.

Some of the residents were sleeping heavily. Meyer said he banged on one door until a man got up.

“I said, ‘You’re house is on fire,’ and he just said, ‘OK.'”

Although each of the apartments was occupied, all the residents managed to get out of the house without injury.

The Fort Dodge Fire Department was on the scene until almost 10:30 a.m. Firefighters had to pull down ceilings in two upstairs apartments to get to the fire and cut a hole in the roof, according to Capt. Paul Neeson.

One of the upstairs apartments was rendered unihabitable, Neeson said.

The cause of the fire, he said, was an electrical problem in the attic.

The Webster County assessor’s office lists Kelly and Anne Payne as owners of the building.