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Monroe family escapes fire after hearing smoke alarms
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MONROE - An accidental house fire that appears to have originated near a wood pellet stove Sunday morning caused more than $75,000 in damages and sent one resident to a hospital with burns and smoke inhalation injury, said Monroe Fire Chief Dan Smits.

The fire was reported at 11 a.m. at the single-family home at 1209 19th St.

A man and his two sons living in the house heard smoke detectors going off and escaped down an interior stairwell from the second floor and out the front door, Smits said. The wood pellet stove was on the first floor.

One of the residents suffered burns as well as smoke inhalation injury. He was taken first in a personal vehicle to Monroe Clinic and then transported to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, which has an intensive care unit for burn patients.

"The fire was knocked down very quickly, probably in about 20 minutes," Smits said.

Monroe firefighters were assisted at the scene by fire departments from Juda, Orangeville, Monticello and New Glarus. The South Wayne Fire Department and Monticello fire chief provided backup at a Monroe fire station.

Even after the main blaze was out, the house required "substantial overhaul," Smits said. "Overhaul" is the firefighting term for making sure a fire is completely out. It involves finding and extinguishing any lingering fire and smoke. Firefighters typically open up walls, ceilings and other partitions and remove smoldering items and other hazards.

Smits estimates the house is at least 75 years old.

"It's very hard in an old house like that to make sure you've got everything," he said.

The family will be able to salvage "very little" in personal possessions, and the house is now substantially damaged and "absolutely uninhabitable," Smits said. As of Sunday evening, it was his understanding that the family has alternative housing, and he noted they were referred to social service agencies to help them acquire clothing.

Smoke detectors were key to alerting the residents of the fire, which started below them on the first floor.

"That's definitely the message we want to get out," Smits said. "Smoke detectors work, and they were alerted ... They definitely heard the smoke detectors."