OLIVIA -- Firefighters battled a blaze for eight hours Thursday in frigid temperatures at a twin home in Olivia. Both units of the structure were destroyed.
The Golf Drive property is owned by a group of elderly residents. Mary Ellen Rauenhorst, who owns one of the units, was reportedly at her second home in Spicer at the time of the fire. Curt and Elly Livingood, who own the other unit, are in Arizona.
The fire began the day before Elly Livingood's 81st birthday, according to her daughter-in-law, Carolyn Livingood, of Olivia.
Carolyn Livingood said her husband, who arrived at the house as smoke was billowing from the roof, went into the home to retrieve photos and mementos. He was able to grab a few things before firefighters prevented him from returning.
The property and all personal possessions inside both units were a total loss, Fire Chief Tim Seehusen said.
The fire was reported at 7:45 a.m. Thursday after neighbors noticed smoke coming from the home.
Shortly after firefighters arrived on scene, flames erupted from the roof.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, but Seehusen said it's believed to have started in the ceiling above the kitchen area in the Rauenhorst-owned unit.
The fire burned in the attic, which made it a stubborn blaze to extinguish, he said.
The below-freezing temperatures affected the air packs, face masks and breathing apparatus the firefighters were using, Seehusen said.
"That was probably our biggest obstacle," he said.
The Bird Island Fire Department provided mutual assistance, including the use of additional breathing equipment and manpower. Seehusen said there were about 35 firefighters on scene.
One firefighter slipped on ice, hit his head and was transported to RC Hospital and Clinics in Olivia. His condition was not serious.
Olivia residents assisted firefighters by providing food and hot cocoa.