Mayor says the life-saving award is city’s highest honor
A call went out the morning of Sept. 9, that a fire had started at a home just east of Pierz off 143rd Street.
The house was destroyed, but Larry and Myrna Juetten were saved thanks to the fast response and quick-thinking of Pierz Police Chief Eric Hanneken.
The Juettens had crawled out of an upstairs window to escape the fire, but were stranded on the roof of their porch.
Myrna, who had still been in bed, said they couldn’t go down the stairs or out of either of the doors because both were blocked by fire.
She said the wind was blowing the smoke away from the house, so they didn’t really smell it until it filled the house. She said their smoke alarms didn’t go off for them to hear, although the firefighters heard them later, she said.
“I suppose because the smoke was being blown away,” she said.
“We wouldn’t have gotten off the roof if it hadn’t been for him (Hanneken),” said Myrna. “We went out the upstairs window to get out of the house, but there was no way down from the porch roof.”
Hanneken heard the call over his pager, which Pierz Fire Chief Brian Boser said came in about 8:30 a.m. The call was that there was a fire with one party still trapped inside the residence, he said.
“When I arrived, Larry and Myrna Juetten were both standing on the roof of the residence,” Hanneken said.
“The house was completely engulfed on the west side and below where they were standing,” he said. “The only safe corner was where they were standing.”
Hanneken found a bench of sorts in the yard and pulled it over to the house and under the porch roof where the Juettens were standing.
At first, Larry didn’t want to leave his wife, Hanneken said, but he got to the edge of the roof and sort of fell to Hanneken.
“I got him to the ground and then got Myrna down the same way,” the chief said.
The Fire Department arrived two to three minutes after Hanneken did.
“If it’s a first response call or fire myself or one of my officers respond automatically to control traffic,” said Hanneken.
He said he has the benefit of heading straight to the scene with lights and sirens blaring, not having to stop at the Fire Hall to suit up and get the fire trucks.
Boser said 18 firefighters responded and had the fire under control within two hours, but remained on the scene for four or five hours.
“It’s great to have full-time officers in Pierz to be able to help locally like that,” said Boser. “They always help out in any way they can. … I thank Eric on behalf of the Fire Department for everything he does to assist us.”
Myrna said the firefighters were right behind the police chief.
“They did a great job and had to be there for a long time because it kept reigniting,” she said.
Myrna said they were told by investigators the fire started when a power cord to a surge protector was somehow pinched.
“It may have been pinched for eight to 10 years, kind of behind the leg of a bookcase,” she said. “We didn’t even realize it. It just overheated finally and couldn’t take it any more.”
While neither was seriously injured, Myrna was taken to Hennepin County for three days for treatment in a hyperbaric chamber.
“It takes the carbon monoxide out of your blood,” she said. “If it isn’t taken out, you just continue to get worse and pretty soon you can’t breathe and you’re done.”
The Juettens stayed in the Hillbilly Haven Motel for two months, until just recently moving into a home in the city of Pierz. Living in the motel was, “OK for a while,” said Myrna.
They may try to rebuild their home of 40 years on 143rd Street, but Myrna said there has to be enough money to do that.
“Right now, there’s not,” she said.
“We’re just so grateful to him (Hanneken),” she said. “The firefighters were right behind him and they did a great job.”
Monday night, the Pierz City Council, several law enforcement officers, former city staff, his family and friends, surprised Hanneken during the City Council meeting, a feat that was two months in the making.
The meeting was moving along, when all of a sudden people began streaming into City Hall, includingHanneken’s wife and daughters carrying balloons. It wasn’t his birthday.
After Mayor Toby Egan presented Hanneken with a plaque and medal, which he said was the city’s most distinguished honor — the lifesaving award, the group broke out in applause.
Hanneken offered his thanks, but pointed to the officers in uniform in attendance — the other full-time Pierz police officer and sheriff’s deputies who help out part-time in the city.
“Pierz is lucky to have these guys in uniform,” he said. “Any one of them would have done the same thing … we’re very lucky to have what we have in eastern Morrison County.”
Wiping a tear from his eye, he thanked his wife and two girls. “Your support is great,” he said.
As he continued, he said, “I’ll say this out loud …. law enforcement is a career I wouldn’t tell anybody to go into anymore because of the wrath of hardship that’s put on the badge and the uniform. It’s a stressful job for each and every one of us. We all look forward to the time when we get to actually walk away from this job with our two legs. I enjoy working for Pierz. I enjoy this uniform and the support I have here.”