NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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Fire comes to mind because of the rash of fires lately here and across our country.

It has been 36 years since fire destroyed my parents' home on St. Olaf Lake. It hasn't been something we talk about much, but the reality seems to come to mind just the same.

We were at the Minnesota State Fair celebrating my mother’s birthday and fortunately the only "life" lost was our little pekinese dog we found by an outside door no doubt trying to get out.

There was a recent night out honoring our fire fighters and policemen by the community which they so deserve. I am sure many people don’t realize what these men and women give to help their friends and neighbors in need.

Sometimes I wake at night and think, “Why do we build two-story homes? Do we consider exits for a quick, safe way out?”

The first fire I remember my family talking about was when my aunt Helyn and Athan Langlie were in a fire that burned Doc Ertel’s farm home, where they were living at the time. They were sleeping upstairs when a loud noise awakened them to see the stairway burning profusely — beyond escape. 

Athan, who had just returned home following an operation at Mayo somehow managed to get Toody, his 3-year-old daughter Barbara and 6-month-old son Jerry out of the home safely, using a window that was close by. (Don't ask me why or how he saved the family’s goldfish  - but he did.)

When my parent’s house burned, it was quick and total loss. We were lucky no one was home at the time, but evidently it raised more thoughts for my father than he ever let on. Mom thinks about it every time she reads about a fire in the paper. As my parents sat on the tailgate of my dad’s pickup watching the last of the fire in case it flared up again, they thought how fortunate they were despite many not-so-fortunate problems they did have.

It was a nice fall that year and they were able to live in the old log cabin they had at the lake until my dad said, "I am going to put up what I can” (for a house) and he did.

The new house was much like the old house, which was a two-story, but the new house had more exit doors.

We will never know why the first fire started, but the shell of a building that contained one hot water heater and one electrical line in for light, while they were building a new home, could have taken their lives when the second fire occurred, though they were sleeping not five feet from a sliding door on ground level. They say the house went fast - only 20 minutes - because it was empty except for their camper and pickup that were in the garage portion of the home.

The fire was so hot it burned the hair on their heads and my dad’s hands as he knew he had better get his pickup out of the garage because he had just filled it with gas.

A year later when they rebuilt the house a second time it was two-story, but they never went back to living in the second level. It was a house of many entrances and exits. There were doors off nearly every room. Some were solid doors, otherwise they were sliding glass doors. My dad never said why he put an exit door in every end of the house, but we knew he remembered how black the smoke was and how fierce the fire was.

When I lost my leg to cancer in 1982, the first thing my dad said was he was going to go home and put another door in my bedroom so I would be able to get out if we ever had a fire. He felt if there was another door, I could crawl, roll or do something to get out if there was a fire, and he did. He put in a set of double French doors in our bedroom that opened out into the family room. Even the bathroom has a door on each end.

Silly? If you've ever experienced the fury of a fire, felt the heat or the feeling of being trapped, maybe you would do what my dad did. The thought of losing a family to a fire is always there.

So I have four grandchildren. Their bedrooms are all upstairs, their parents too. The fact they are sort of split-level homes helps, but is it enough? 

My nephew’s girls’ bedrooms are on the second floor of their home too. It is easier to open a patio door on ground level than a window over a two-story drop. But they weren't there to see the fire and the smoke and they don’t realize how fast a fire can destroy. Fire drills help, but they still leave much to be desired.  Anything that takes time to escape is a hazard. 

I didn't plan to write about fires. We are so fortunate, proud and grateful to have dependable fire departments close by. There is no reason it should ever happen, but it does, and with that thought in mind when I hear of someone losing their children in a fire it is so depressing. Even thinking of living with it is hard to think about.

I hope people will talk about what they would do if a fire were to occur, and make sure that their homes are as safe as possible. It only takes a few minutes to lose everything, including a life.

Some of our Star Eagle readers have commented they like to read about events such as family and school reunions, birthdays and anniversaries, and birth and wedding announcements.  In order to read about these important things we need our faithful readers to pass along the information to us.

Also if you have an idea for a story that you think would be of interest to our readers, please contact me. 

There are times I make mistakes regarding birthdays and anniversaries because of information I don’t know. Please look at it as a reminder that though they may no longer be with us it is nice to remember they once were and celebrate their birthdays and anniversaries.

If you have birthdays and anniversaries you would like to include, or news to share please contact me via e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., by postal mail, P.O. Box 192, Geneva, MN 56035 or telephone, 507-256-4405.

Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, August 11th: Nicole & Daniel Burns, 2012; Nicole & Dallas Loken, Brian Broulik, Vicki Humburg, Jeremy Kaiser, Mike Plunkett, Kris Simon Freitas, Sharon Sorenson, Kim Anderson Schneider, Brian Thostenson, Irvin Jensen Jr., Kevin Avery, Luke Clark Wangsness, Pagie Sophia Kromminga

• Friday, August 12th: Linda & LaVerne Stieglbauer, Shawna Robertson, Tessa Christensen, Kristine Schroeder, Cynthia Crabtree, Cindy Nelson, Cindy Oswald, Thomas Smith, Ross Swearingen, Genie Hanson, Amy Tasker

• Saturday, August 13th: Janet Hope, Kellie Petranek, Lisa Dummer, Megan Dummer, Dennis Deml, Tim Enzenauer, David Haddy, Bob Brandt, Sylvia Jepson, Saxton Chad Ritz

• Sunday, August 14th: David & Carrie Paulson, Mark Sorenson, Lucille Nechanicky, Gretchen Oswald Thompson, Peter Kasper, Leah Berg, Alison & Chad Muilenburg

• Monday, August 15th: Roger Wayne, Obert Osmundson, Kaye Dee Hanson, Nancy Nelson, Stephanie Peterson, Rhonda Shelton, Cade Shelton, Brian Warnke, Dorrie Horan, Michael Suelter, Kellie Benning, Brian Warnke, Maverick Harold Knutson, Larry & Kathleen Jensen

• Tuesday, August 16th: Mary Lerberg, Kaven Dean VanHal, Haley Deml, Alexander James Dufresne, Shayla Ann Marie Pachoel, Julie Arnold, Wayne & Marie Dobberstein, Harold & Janice Jensen, Mark & Diana Sundwall, Jeff & Julie Schlei, Donny & Gail Turvold

• Wednesday, August 17th: Cole Brody Thompson, Dillon Matthew Kubiatowicz, Katie Klemmensen, Julie Osmundson, Luke Wiersma, Carol Nelson, Abbey Beaber, Jackie DeVrient, Sonya Peterson, Cheryl Spurr, Steve Ladlie, Daniel Whelan, Rod & Cheryl Thompson, Tira & James Smith, Tina & Todd Wangen

• Thursday, August 18th: Ron Johnson, Rick Johnson, John Ross Vermedahl, David Klocek, Michael Ingvaldson, Kelly Schmidt Janning, Connie Robertson, David Rietsema, Gary & Kathy Anderson, Ryan & Jill Hanson, Tamara & David Jepson

• Friday, August 19th: Daxter Carter Lee, Jason Langlie, Michelle Peterson, Jennifer Popiel, Cheri Krejci, Ruth Enzenauer, Cynthia Grubish, Lois Johnson Aitchison, David Cooper, Alyssa Kay Jensen, Larry & Karen Carlson, Jackie & Travis Olson, Andy & Julie Arnold, Larry & Mary Ellen Walton, Kayla & Patrick Krause

May your day be filled with everything you enjoy most.

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