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Alert firefighter awakens couple as North Hudson attached garage burns

Officials said a fire was likely contained to a garage at an occupied North Hudson home after an off-duty firefighter spotted smoke and flames coming from the structure. Photo courtesy of North Hudson 1 / 2
Fire destroyed a garage Sunday, Nov. 12 in North Hudson. Photo courtesy of North Hudson police2 / 2

Mike Perucca was heading to a medical call Sunday night in the town of St. Joseph when another emergency caught his attention before he got out of his North Hudson neighborhood.

"I noticed an abnormal amount of smoke in the area," he said.

It didn't take long for the St. Joe first responder — who also works as a Hudson firefighter — to determine the smoke was coming from a garage fire at 700 Fourth St. N. Perucca, who's also the city of Hudson's fire inspector, noticed an orange glow in the garage as he approached the house just before 10:30 p.m. Nov. 12.

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He stopped, reported the fire to dispatch, then rushed to the door.

Hudson Fire Chief Scott St. Martin said the residents, Tony and Jane Zappa, had been asleep at the time. They were awakened by Perucca banging on the door and ringing the doorbell.

Perucca said the house was already filling with smoke as the attached garage burned, but the couple got out without any injuries.

The firefighters said the house was not equipped with a smoke detector.

"He did a great job," St. Martin said of Perucca. "It was a very good outcome which could have potentially gone very bad."

Perucca, a 10-year veteran of the fire department, brushed aside any notions of heroism.

"It could have been anyone driving by," he said. "Just happened to be me."

St. Martin said the garage sustained heavy fire damage, though damage to the house was limited to smoke impact. A "textbook" attack by firefighters kept the blaze from damaging the living space, he said.

"The crew did a really nice job," St. Martin said.

As for the medical call in St. Joe, records show three other units responded there while Perucca tended to the North Hudson fire.

North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert said he hopes to recognize Perucca for his actions at the December village board meeting.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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