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Teen leaps to safety from burning house

A rural Wanamingo teenager escaped a burning house by leaping from the roof into her father's arms early Saturday morning, the Goodhue County Sheriff's Office reported.

Thomas Hamersma and his 17-year-old daughter, Molly, were "pretty darn lucky as far as I'm concerned," Fire Chief Scott Goodman told the R-E Monday morning.

Thomas Hamersma alerted authorities at 7:27 a.m. Saturday. His house had been struck by lightning, he said, and he was in the process of trying to get his daughter out of her second-story bedroom.

He had left the house at 10336 460th St. in Cherry Grove Township around 7 a.m. and driven into town to the gas station, according to Kris Weiss, sheriff's department spokeswoman.

It was raining heavily, and he saw a bolt of lightning high above the house. Hamersma told authorities he didn't think it had hit anything.

Returning home around 7:20 a.m., he proceeded up the long driveway and saw flames and smoke coming from the living room area, he told deputies. Hamersma was unable to enter the house because of the fire and smoke.

Knowing his daughter was a heavy sleeper and knowing it might take too long to get a ladder to reach the second floor, Hamersma threw a long wood plank at her bedroom window, breaking the window and awakening Molly.

"He told her to jump out the window -- that he'd catch her," Weiss reported. "Which he did."

"She came out on the roof and jumped" 8 to 10 feet, Goodman estimated. Two dogs also escaped the burning house.

Molly had only a small cut on her finger, and her father was uninjured, according to reports.

The house was engulfed in flames when Wanamingo volunteer firefighters arrived, Goodman reported. About 25 came to fight the blaze; no one was injured. The department was on the scene until about 11:20 a.m. About 10 Kenyon volunteer firefighters came to back them up, Goodman noted, and the Zumbrota ambulance also responded.

The Red Cross was on scene offering help, but he said the Hamersmas went to stay with family members.

"Everybody's okay," the fire chief said, but the house was destroyed. Goodman agreed that lighting was probably the cause.