By Bill Hudson

BIG LAKE, Minn. (WCCO) — There were some frightening moments this morning for firefighters and neighbors as flames and explosions devoured a home in the north metro.

It apparently was set on fire by the despondent homeowner, who was seen outside with a gun. He later shot himself and was rushed to a nearby hospital.

It took place along the Mississippi River in Big Lake Township, at the 19400 block of 180th Street.

Quite a scene and a frightening one, as the first firefighters to arrive were backed away by a man holding a gun. Deputies arrived to negotiate his surrender, but nearly two hours later, with the home fully engulfed, he shot himself.

DeeDee Romani was caring for her children, paying little attention to the normally placid scene across the Mississippi.

“We were playing in the family room down there and it sounded like firecrackers going off, it just was boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” she said. “And I looked out the window and it was just already the whole house was engulfed.”

She grabbed her camera and iPad and took video of the home consumed in an orange fireball, capturing the frightening scene.

“It just got bigger and bigger, and I was kind of wondering why it was so loud and I thought, wow, is that what a fire that big sounds like?” Romani said.

Turned out to be a stockpile of ammunition. What she didn’t know — until she spotted deputies, guns in hand — was that firefighters were forced to back off.

“First in officer went to do a 360 and was confronted by an individual, homeowner with a handgun,” Big Lake Fire Department Chief Paul Nemes said.

For nearly two hours, officers attempted to negotiate his surrender, when he knelt down by a tree and fired a single shot.

“He did not say a word, he brandished his weapon and that was enough,” Nemes said.

The man was rushed to a local hospital and firefighters soon learned nobody else was inside the home.

For a young mother across the river, she doesn’t need her videotape to recall such a haunting scene.

“I just feel sad, it’s just sad,” Romani said. “I hope that his family is OK.”

Authorities are not yet identifying the man but we are told his ex-wife and three children are safe.

The fire apparently was set with a couple of 5 gallon containers of gasoline.


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