A 39-year-old Blue Earth man who died in an early morning house fire on Sunday, May 6, is being remembered as a friend, a caring person and "just a great guy."
Faribault County dispatch received a 911 call around 4:47 a.m. reporting a house on fire at 914 E. 1st St. in Blue Earth.
When authorities arrived on the scene they found Rudy Carmona and his cousin, 47-year-old Fidel Bello of Elmore, lying on the living room floor.
Firefighters battle a house fire Sunday morning in Blue Earth that claimed the lives of 39-year-old Rudy Carmona of Blue Earth and 47-year-old Fidel Bello of Elmore.
Authorities say the two men may have been overcome by smoke. The home did not have functioning smoke detectors.
"Oh my God, you have no clue how much he's going to be missed. Rudy was an amazing person," says Amy Stelter. "He was a caring person who would give you the shirt off his back." Stelter and her husband Scott lived behind Carmona to the south.
They are among a small group of people who stood in front of the charred house Sunday night.
Black and yellow "do not cross" tape roped off the area and two memorial crosses were placed on the yard.
Throughout the day motorists drove by to get a glimpse.
Chief Deputy Scott Adams says authorities believe the fire started when lightning struck a small satellite dish on the roof and traveled down into the wiring of the house.
"When it hit, the house went up fast in flames," says Adams.
Carmona was a self-employed contractor and the owner of Rudy's Roofing.
Stelter says she talked with Carmona about a couple of weeks ago when he returned from Mexico.
"He told me he was building a house in Acapulco and was going to go back after the summer to finish it," she says.
Through the evening, Stelter says she was awaken by the smell of smoke coming through their home's open windows.
"My husband and I just thought a neighbor had a campfire going," she says. "I must have gotten up three times. If I had only gone out and looked."
The fire was next door to her uncle and aunt's house, Gary and Donna Bussinger.
The Bussingers' daughter Sheila Daggett and her son had spent the night.
"She (Sheila) looked out the bedroom window and saw bright orange through the blinds," says Donna. "When she saw the flames, she called 911."
Bussinger and Stelter say no one in their home heard anything that sounded like a lightning strike.
Stelter says she received a phone call from a firefighter's wife at 4:52 a.m. and about three minutes later the blaze had engulfed the house.
Nearby residents went to the scene and watched as Blue Earth and Winnebago firefighters battled the blaze.
"The flames were high. Shooting out the roof and near the top of the trees," says Jeramy Nagel, who lives on Second Street Southeast.
Adams says firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control quickly.
Vinyl siding on the Bussinger home was damaged by intense heat.
More than 12 hours following the fatal fire, friends were lost for words on what had happened.
"We really liked him as a neighbor. He was just great, really great," Donna says.
It wasn't uncommon, says Stelter, for Carmona to use his equipment and give a neighbor a hand with any project they were doing.
"He was so helpful and never wanted anything for it," she says.
Carmona also liked to joke around with the Stelter boys.
"He always called them amigo. He would say, "OK, let's go my amigos,'" says Stelter.
Also assisting at the scene were the Blue Earth Police Department, United Hospital District ambulance and the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The fire remains under investigation.
The bodies were taken to Ramsey County for autopsies.