by Jim Boyle
A Zimmerman family is starting over after a fire claimed their home at 11605 261st Ave. N.W.
Billy Sanderson was rocking his teething son upstairs one night last week when he smelled smoke. He went downstairs and discovered the room where he had been reading a Bible and preparing for a conference had filled with flames and smoke.
“It felt like all the oxygen was sucked out of my body,” Sanderson said.
The 37-year-old youth pastor bolted back upstairs to grab his son, Levi, wrapped him in his blanket and headed back downstairs. By then the flames and smoke were blocking his path to the front door.
“I squeezed him as close to my chest as I could and ran through the flames and smoke,” Sanderson said.
He hopped into his truck and backed down the driveway to call 911.
Zimmerman firefighters were at the station for training when the call came in 8:45 p.m. on Feb. 15. They arrived within minutes to find fire shooting out of two windows.
“The fire chief told me had we been in the home 60 seconds longer, we probably wouldn’t have made it out,” Sanderson said.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the main level, Zimmerman Fire Chief Ryan Maloney said. “But with the smoke and water damage I believe the home is a total loss.”
There’s some speculation the fire may have started from a candle, but the cause remains under investigation, Maloney said.
Billy Sanderson works for Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester. His wife, Michelle, who is pregnant, works at Great River Energy in Maple Grove. She was at a girlfriend’s house at the time of the fire.
Sanderson took on some smoke in his throat and lungs, but he and his son escaped virtually unharmed.
“I have had a few flashbacks,” Sanderson said. “I would much rather live with them than the alternative.”