Fire chief: 'I've never seen injuries like that'

After awakening to his house on fire, a father ran through flames to rescue his three young daughters, and his teenage son jumped from a second story window to escape the blaze

Noah Fish And Brian Todd

RUSHFORD — By the time the Rushford Fire Department arrived on the scene, the house was 90 percent gone.

Rushford Fire Chief Chad Rasmussen said his crews arrived at the home in the 1000 block of Dump Hill Road on the outskirts of Rushford within about three minutes of getting the call, but it was immediately apparent nothing could be done for the home.

Rasmussen said he then focused his attention on the members of the Cords family.

A Facebook fundraiser has been set up for the Cords family.

"In my 22 years, I’ve never seen injuries like that," Rasmussen said, referring to the burn injuries sustained by members of the family. "Some of these guys have been doing this for 30 years. No one from my department has seen injuries like that."

The fire began at about 12:39 a.m. on Oct. 31 as a family of six — mother, father, a teenage son and three daughters ages 7, 4 and 3 years — lay sleeping.

Rasmussen said the mother, Erin Cords, woke up "for some reason," then woke her husband, Jared.

"He ran upstairs and grabbed the three girls and ran through the fire," Rasmussen said. Their 15-year-old son, finding no escape route, jumped from a second-story window to get out of the house.

"If it wouldn't have been for the father and his quick thinking, we wouldn't be talking about how they are doing," Rasmussen said.

All the family members were out of the house when fire crews arrived, Rasmussen said, but it was apparent they needed immediate care. While his crews, with mutual aid help from the Houston Fire Department, battled the blaze, the fire chief said he focused on the family and their injuries.

"There was a lot of pain, a lot of shock," he said.

The girls, the boy and their mother, 40, were taken by ambulance to either Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse or Winona Health in Winona, according to Rasmussen and the Houston County Sheriff's Office.

Rasmussen said he'd requested medical helicopters to the site, but the mother and children had all been taken by ambulance before he received word a helicopter would come. Jared Cords, 45, was airlifted to Regions Hospital in St. Paul with serious injuries, and the three girls were later transferred to Regions with serious injuries as well.

According to the sheriff's office, the cause of the fire has not been determined. The fire is being investigated by the state fire marshal and the Houston County Sheriff’s Office. Rasmussen said the fire marshal had been on the scene for several hours, but due to the total loss of the home, determination of the cause could take some time.

A fundraiser account has been opened at Rushford State Bank. A bank employee said the account had more than $7,000 by Friday afternoon, and the "Jared and Erin Cords Family Relief Fund" Facebook fundraiser has collected $12,240 by Friday afternoon as well.

Rasmussen said a live auction and fundraiser is being organized at the Rushford American Legion for Nov. 30 to help the family.

In addition to the Rushford and Houston fire departments, and the Houston County Sheriff's Office, Houston Ambulance, Rushford Ambulance, Tri-State Ambulance, Gundersen Air Helicopter, Winona Ambulance and the Houston Police Department all responded to the scene.

"Everyone did a phenomenal job," Rasmussen said.


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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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