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St. Paul Park house fire sends three to hospital

ST. PAUL PARK — Three people were transported to the hospital, one with burns, following a fire in St. Paul Park Tuesday. They were evacuated from the burning structure with the help of a neighbor prior to the arrival of first responders.

According to a report from the St. Paul Park Police Department, city firefighters responded to a call at about 1:41 p.m. Tuesday of a fire at a single-family home with attached garage, located in the 1400 block of Fifth Street in Grey Cloud Island. They arrived first on the scene, where they encountered heavy smoke and flames.

Don Kritzky, who lives across the street, was working in his garage when his wife, Linda, alerted him to the fire.

Kritzky said he dialed 911 as he ran to the house. 

"I opened the door and the smoke just hit me in the face," he said. "I kind of crouched down, I kind of looked up and the smoke was to the roof. I started yelling, ‘Get out of the house! Is there anybody in there?’”

He said he heard a woman screaming, but the smoke and flames were too intense for him to get inside. He ran around to the back and saw a woman lying on the ground. A man lay across the threshold of the back door.

“She was yelling, get him out of the smoke, get him out of the smoke!’” Kritzky said.

He and another neighbor dragged the man clear of the house.

Kritzky ran around to the front where a third occupant, a male, collapsed on the front yard after trying to use a garden hose to douse the flames. A car in the driveway was also engulfed, and Kritzky said he was worried about it blowing up.

The three were sent to the hospital to be evaluated for smoke inhalation.

Kritzky, a racing enthusiast, is no stranger to disaster. In August 2014, he was injured during a side-by-side drag race at the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway. He was doing 175 mph when he swerved to avoid colliding with his opponent’s car, which crashed first. The maneuver sent Kritzky’s car careening across both lanes. It caromed off the wall, rolled and caught fire. The crash broke his pelvis in two places as well as his right hip and leg.

He's back on track, literally, drag racing at even higher speeds.

The St. Paul Park Fire Department was assisted on the scene by the Newport and Cottage Grove fire departments and Woodbury paramedics.

St. Paul Park police received assistance from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Cottage Grove Police Department.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

This story is developing.

William Loeffler

William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009. 

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