WEST FARGO – Flames gutted a West Fargo home early Thursday, July 6, but the family of six and four pets escaped the fire safely thanks in part to an off-duty firefighter who spotted the blaze about 1 a.m. at  703 17th Ave. W.

West Fargo Fire Chief Dan Fuller said firefighter Perry McClellan was heading home after answering a different call when he saw fire on the home’s deck.

Fuller said McClellan was about to pound on the front door of the home when the residents opened the door and began coming outside.

Fuller said McClellan helped to make sure the family, which included four children and four pets, made it out safely and then called 911 dispatchers.

Homeowner Robert Vojacek declined to talk at length about the fire Thursday morning, but he said he was thankful that his wife, Angela, and their children all got out safely, as did the family’s four pets. Fuller said Angela Vojacek told firefighters that she awoke to the sound of crackling and saw flames on the deck before waking up her husband and rushing to get everyone out of the house.

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Fuller said it is believed the fire started on the outside of the house, possibly in the area of the deck.

While battling the blaze, one firefighter fell through decking material and injured his ankle, while another fell off a small ladder and injured an elbow. Both were taken to the hospital to have their injuries evaluated, the chief said.

Fuller said the West Fargo Fire Department has handled many calls in recent days and weeks. Between 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 4, and 8 a.m. Wednesday, July 5, the department dealt with seven fire calls, six of which were due to sparks from fireworks or improper disposal of spent fireworks.

This sort of call volume, Fuller said, underscores the necessity of implementing a plan now in the works to move the department toward more of a full-time fire department while still keeping volunteer ranks.

“When we’ve had this many (fire calls) in a month, it really illustrates we are getting busier and we need to have some sort of change in our system to make it easier for them to stay on as volunteers, to make it less stressful,” he added.

Fuller said the home damaged by fire Thursday was a total loss. The fire department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause.

Fuller said the public should be aware that conditions are very dry and that it is important to soak burned materials, such as cigarettes or campfires, with water.

    A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the Vojacek family.