Morris Fire Chief Dave Dybdal said an April 22 fire destroyed a two-unit apartment house at 718 Iowa Ave. in Morris.

"It's a total loss," Dybdal said on April 23. "The main structure is unsafe." No one was injured in the fire but the renter in the basement apartment lost one cat, he said. One dog and one other cat survived.

Dybdal met with the State Fire Marshal on the morning of April 23. The fire started in the bathroom ceiling fan in the basement apartment.

Rebecca Kragness and two children live in the basement apartment. Becki Jordan and two children live in the main floor apartment. The house is owned by Erv Krosch of Morris.

The fire destroyed the house and the personal belongings of the renters, Dybdal said. "Everything is just black in there, (from fire and smoke)," Dybdal said.

The fire was reported at 4:06 p.m. by one of the two children in the Kragness apartment, Dybdal said. The family had told authorities they had smelled smoke before that but thought it was someone burning wood in the neighborhood, Dybdal said. The smell was caused by the fire burning in the ceiling above the bathroom fan, he said. The fire spread through the ceiling and wood structure, Dybdal said.

The first fire engine was at the scene at 4:11 p.m., Dybdal said.

"The heat was intense," Dybdal said. The heat was so intense it blew out a picture window on the main floor of the house, he said.

The intensity of the heat and the thickness of the smoke was a challenge, he said.

"It was really heavy fire," Dybdal said. "The fire rolled over (firefighters') heads two or three times before they got it knocked down."

Firefighters had to hold thermal imaging cameras next to their face masks in order to see through the smoke, Dybdal said.

The Morris and Hancock Fire Departments used about 1,000 gallons of water and five gallons of foam, Dybdal said.

The firefighters needed to enter the basement apartment through a door in the garage area, he said.

When the the fire was knocked down, firefighter spread water to ventilate the structure to try and clear smoke, he said. Fire spread from the back of the apartment shot out the front of the structure as firefighters used the water ventilation technique.

Several of the renters watched the firefighters from across the street on April 22.

"I'm just in shock," Jordan said.

Kragness and the children were watching to see if the second cat had survived the fire.

Dybdal said the gas and power had been shut off before firefighters started their work. The house will now be boarded to make it secure, he said.