NEW RICHLAND-HARTLAND-ELLENDALE-GENEVA AREA

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Their house burned. My heart goes out to them. No one knows what it is like unless you have experienced it in your family. 

My memory reminds me of such a happening. Do we ever forget? Yes, and no. You are just thankful that it was a material thing that took away some important things, but no lives were lost when they could have been. Things are important, but people are more important.

I know I have a tendency to harp on fire safety and the role of so many volunteer firemen who interrupt their lives to be there when needed. I encourage everyone to support their efforts and need for equipment that makes it just a little easier to protect their local citizens.

The Earl family in Clarks Grove were aware of things they needed to do if such a tragedy ever involved their home. They had access windows and security alarms, and not just because Todd was a member of a security force akin to the fire department.

People need to remember the importance of planning ahead –  emergency exits, an escape route — as well as trying to do it in the dark when there isn’t an emergency. Things can be replaced, but lives cannot.

We all need to make sure that we have a number of fire extinguishers in our homes, as well as teach all family members how to use them so they will know what to do if an emergency were to arise.

We all carry fire insurance on our homes, so we have planned for that financial loss. But we need to put just as much planning into how we will protect that loss. Planning for an emergency costs nothing, but it is perhaps the most important thing we can do to ward off an emergency from happening in the first place.

The family will have a somber Christmas, but Thanksgiving comes before and they are ever so grateful that the fire came at a time of day/night that they were awake to hear noises that required investigation because the fire was in the bedroom end of their home. They lost many of their clothes and much more, but not their family which included four-legged ones.

This was of special significance for me because my Uncle Paul built this home with a lot of thought and special ideas that made it their home – something the Earl family also enjoyed because it was a special home to them too.

How many years has it been since my parents’ home at St. Olaf Lake burned? I don’t even remember off hand. We were all at the State Fair celebrating my mother’s birthday. It had been such a good day. We weren’t there when the fire was so fierce it melted part of the fire truck. The kind neighbors called the State Fair grounds to let us know and I do remember the ride home. Thoughts of our little Pekingese dog, and in our minds knew he was “hiding.” The fire didn’t get him, but the smoke did. That was the only tears that were shed.

After everyone else went home, Mom and Dad sat on the tailgate of Dad’s truck. A neighbor brought pillows and blankets. Mom remembers it as a special time. She doesn’t recall what they talked about as they watched the dying embers and flare-ups. Mom remembers it was one of the times in their marriage when they were so close, surprisingly calm, but unaware of the problems they would face.

A special friend, John Flor, arranged a charitable event and our friends and neighbors all came. That is one of those times to realize that you are so thankful for the help but feel so guilty about accepting it. Their first house at the lake was built of recycled materials. Dad and Mom had cleaned the boards from the slip forms when Clarks Grove built its large concrete elevator. Dad couldn’t stand to see that good wood be burned, so he put it to good use. They were sufficient to build a major part of their home. He hauled them home from the building site — cleaned and reused them.

I’ll skip all that. It doesn’t matter. The fire does. Mom and Dad lived in their camper trailer and the old log cabin they had at the lake after the fire. It was a beautiful fall. Dad said “Let’s use the funds we have to build what we can,” and they did. And that is the part I want everyone to realize.

We don’t know why, but that empty framework home they were building also burnt. There was only one electrical circuit in it for a hot water heater and a light in the bathroom. They said because it was empty there were “flash backs.” It only lasted 20 minutes. 

They were living in the trailer in a northern corner of the garage, less than 5 feet from a garage-size door on the ground level. The fire burned the hair on their heads when they were getting outside.

After that they took a hiatus and lived with my sister Kaye in Geneva that winter and managed to rebuild again the next year. Dad never said a word but there was a patio access door in every room in their new house except the bathroom, plus a walkout basement bedroom. I guess he wanted to make sure they could get out fast if something like that were to occur again.

I hope that everyone really considers how fast you have to move to get out of a burning building. Do you have security, smoke and fire alarms, a fire extinguisher or more?

Good neighbors and a loyal fire department are also two more good things to have close by as well.

I don’t believe anything can move so fast, destroy so much and endanger lives like a fire can. I guess maybe floods aren’t too far behind.

This Thanksgiving I will remember when I lost my leg just before Christmas 35 years ago. My dad came to the hospital to see me and then excused himself because he wanted to go home and cover a piece of the ground at our house as he wanted to build a room off our bedroom with a double door and an outside access door. He figured if I needed to I could hopefully get out of the house with the additional doorways and such in case we were to have a fire. He never said, but I think the thoughts about the fire were always in his head.

Thanks Dad. Thank you, God, too for protecting us and as well as the Earl family. Christmas may be a little different for them this year, but we are thankful they will all be together. That is the important thing. 

I hope that everyone will be reminded how important fire prevention and being prepared is.

Say, thank you, firemen!

— — —

Birthdays and anniversaries:

• Thursday, November 23rd: Happy Thanksgiving! Amanda Farr, Amy Hunnicutt Kromminga, Lisa Holmes Rietsema, Margaret Loven, Marietta Sommers Rupe, Rick Thompson, Sara Anderson, Joyce Ditlveson, Amanda Farr, George & Diana Ritz

• Friday, November 24th: Blaine Boverhuis, Deb Peterson Schmidt, Ellen Pearl LaFave, Heather Snow, Lisa Hunnicutt Vreeman, Bob Hanson, Rita Glynn, Abraham Ladlie, Kyle Layland, Scott & Lisa Rietsema

• Saturday, November 25th: Scott Groth, Calista Lerum, Randy Born, Mitchel Hill, Joel Langlie, Brian Vogt, Gideon Jude Long, Daryl & Kathy Paulsen

• Sunday, November 26th: Darlene Krohnberg, Cody Christensen, Robert Gasner, Linda Stieglbauer, Drew Vangen, Ashley Bergerson, Al & Diane Lee, Jamie & Kate Cameron

• Monday, November 27th: Jack Kuchenbecker, Kyle Goslee, Olivia Rae Kohn, Paul Kasper, Cyrstal Spurr, Mike Draayer, Lorna Berg, Sandra Tonsing

• Tuesday, November 28th: Quinn Lauren Wayne, Vicki Peterson, Jackie & Scott Miller, LaVonna Ruhl, Christy & Tim Berry, Pastor Carrie & Dan McElfresh

• Thursday, November 30th: Dan Mrotz, Lindsey Hagen, Lindsey Schlaak, Sophia Jepson, Eric Knudson, Norell Wood Durfee, Kellen Utpadel, David & Lizell Swearingen, Andy & Emily Butler

• Friday, December 1st: Ethan Elliot Marzoff, Kyle Anthony Neidermeier, Jim Cornelius, Brian Waage, Laurie Ellis, Teri Horan Finke, Barbara Wangsness

• Saturday, December 2nd: Maryalice Hanson, Liam William Philip Abbott, Allura Danon Johnson, Leah Wayne, Paige Sorenson, Lyle Paulson, Jean Richards Worrell, Heidi Wangsness, Heather Peterson, Dale Schewe

May your spend your special day doing something that you really enjoy.

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