Chuck Fletcher doesn't know why he woke up.

"Fortunately, I wake up a lot these days as I get older," the Wild general manager said.

That turn of fortune helped prevent a tragedy of unthinkable proportion in the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 24.

Twelve hours earlier, 15 members of the Wild's hockey operations and business executive team arrived at the Johnson family summer home on Lake Owen outside Cable, Wis. The compound — made up of a main house, guest homes, a lake house and a sauna — was originally built by Herbert Fisk Johnson, the grandfather of Helen Johnson, CEO of Johnson Outdoors and wife of Wild owner Craig Leipold.

Late every summer the Leipolds host a retreat there for Wild management, from Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka and Xcel Energy Center GM Jack Larson to Fletcher, assistant GM Brent Flahr and the Wild's coaching staff.

It was 5 a.m., about 12 hours after the group arrived on a limo bus from St. Paul. They stuffed themselves with a meal and hit the sack before midnight to rest up for a Sunday fun day. That changed dramatically once Fletcher's eyes opened.

"It smelled like a campfire, and I could see this bright orange light probably 15 feet outside my window," Fletcher said. "I was disoriented at first, wondering why everybody was still up, why the campfire was still going, even though there was never any campfire.

"I heard crackling and smelled smoke. I run to the window and flames are coming out of both sides of the building."

The sauna was on fire. Literally a few feet away was that lake house — a three-bedroom, 50-year-old cabin with a kitchen and living room — that housed Fletcher, Flahr and Jim Mill, the Wild's director of minor league operations.

Fletcher raced into the rooms of Flahr and Mill.

"I grabbed a garbage can full of water, ran around the corner and the whole building was already ablaze," Flahr said. "I threw the water and it pretty much evaporated. That's when we realized what we were up against."

"We were running around bumping into each other," Mill said.

The fire, caused by an electrical malfunction in the sauna, was about 50 feet from the main house. On the property sits a big bell. Fletcher began ringing it, frantically screaming, "Fire!!!" Flahr and Mill ran into the main house and began knocking on door after door, waking everybody up.

Working frantically

Besides Leipold and his wife, Leipold's 89-year-old parents, Betty Jo and Lefty, and Johnson's mom, Gene, were in the house.

"When I first awoke, I was thinking, 'Oh gosh, what are they burning in the kitchen now?' " Leipold said. "I looked out my window, and the flames were going like crazy and I knew we were in for a very long and scary day. I got outside, and the flames were completely out of control."

Fletcher, Flahr and Mill ran back to the lake house hoping they could save some of the Johnson family's valuables, but "there was a blue streak going through the house and the fire was already a raging inferno," Fletcher said.

"At this point," Leipold said, "We knew we were going to lose the lake house and sauna. Now, could we save the main house?"

Assistant coach Darby Hendrickson called 911. As flames began hopping from tree to tree, Mill emptied every fire extinguisher he could find. Director of Player Development Brad Bombardir found a garden hose and began trying fruitlessly to put out the fire with Mill. Bombardir got so wet his phone was destroyed as he began spraying the outside walls of the main house, hoping it would help extinguish any sparks that might fly into it.

A house saved

Luckily the wind was mostly blowing toward the lake, not the house.

"Bomber was right in the trenches trying to put out a massive fire with a garden hose," Fletcher said.

"It really had no effect, but at least we felt like something was being done," Leipold said. "The reality is there was literally nothing we could do until the fire department arrived."

That took a while. The Drummond and Cable Fire Departments are made up of volunteers, so just imagine how long it takes at 5 a.m. on a Sunday for volunteer firefighters to assemble in rural Wisconsin.

But once the dozen men and women arrived with two trucks, they worked valiantly to put out the fire and save the main house.

That was especially meaningful because Samuel Curtis Johnson (aka S.C. Johnson) is the family patriarch. He was quite a photographer, so in that home were irreplaceable, sentimental family photos and prints.

"My goodness, what those firefighters did and the professionalism that they showed doing it, just amazing," Leipold said. "We were a bunch of guys saying, 'What can we do to help? Can we hold the hoses?' They were like, 'We've got everything,' and my goodness, they knew what they were doing."

As a thank you to those volunteers, Leipold is hosting both fire departments in a suite at Saturday's Wild-Lightning game.

Weekend to remember

The sauna was destroyed. So was the lake house.

"There were a lot of heirlooms and things collected by the family. Everything was gone," Leipold said. "But thank goodness, everybody was OK."

It took minutes for fire to engulf that lake house. If Fletcher hadn't woke up, it could have been a tragedy for Fletcher, Flahr and Mill.

"Just lucky," Fletcher said. "I don't know why I woke up, but very fortunate I did."

"It was surreal at the time, that's for sure," Flahr said.

"I try not to think about what if Chuck didn't wake up," Leipold said. "The way the fire was, that house went fast. It was made of 30-year-old cedar boards. It was probably the most helpless feeling I have ever had."

The big joke at dinner was how badly the retreat started because the golf clubs of five members of the traveling party somehow fell out of the back of the bus during the drive from St. Paul.

"It was quite a weekend," Flahr said.

Wild coach Mike Yeo missed the retreat because his son had a hockey tournament.

"People need to learn, this is what happens when I'm not around. Things go up in flames," Yeo joked.