By Tracy Perlman

MAHTOMEDI, Minn. (WCCO) — Fire alarms and bright orange flames falling from the sky woke neighbors in a Mahtomedi neighborhood early on Friday morning.

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“It was very, very frightening, I can tell you that,” Margie Grilley recalled from watching her neighbor’s house on fire. “I would look up and it was just coming down, like heavy snow or rain. It was very scary.”

Someone living on the other side of White Bear Lake spotted a fire on the back porch of a home and called 911.

Firefighters describe the scene they pulled up to as a rainstorm of ashes, and burning pieces of wood flying in the air.

Within 45 minutes, the house was gone. The people who lived there were out of town, only to return Friday morning. They told WCCO off-camera that there’s nothing they can do but move forward.

The realities of the fire are just setting in for Mike Nightingale and his family.

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“It didn’t really register at first, and then I saw my neighbor’s house,” he said.

A firefighter woke him up saying he and his two young kids needed to get out.

“The kids didn’t want me to leave them alone, and I wanted to see what was going on,” he said.

The dry conditions and gusting winds pushed the flames from his neighbor’s home onto his. While smoke and fire ruined the outside, water destroyed the inside. But, he said, all is not lost.

“We’re finding some of the things in the house; kind of was a little more uplifting,” Nightingale said. “A lot of the pictures on the walls were still there. A lot of sentimental stuff was still there.”

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Neighbors said they used their hoses to water down their yards so the embers wouldn’t spark fires at their homes. Fire investigators say they’re not sure how the first fire started.