Ron and Janelle Alspaugh and their four children are looking for someplace to live after their home burned northwest of Oconto on Road 783 early Wednesday morning, Dec. 26.
The family made it out safely but all their possessions were lost in what was termed a total loss.
Fire Chief Cliff Badgley said the department was called out shortly after 2 a.m. He said someone in the family smelled smoke and all made their way out the south door of the farmhouse. He said Ron Alspaugh went back for some warmer clothing but the flames were already too fierce.
By the time Oconto and Callaway mutual aide help arrived at the scene, the home was fully involved with flames venting outside the structure. All that could be done was to keep it from spreading to other buildings on the farmstead owned by Gale and Charlotte Henry for whom Ron Alspaugh is employed. Firefighters poured water on it to keep it contained.
The children were taken over to the Henry home. Badgley said he was not sure where the parents were shortly after 1 p.m., as firemen put equipment back in the fire barn in Oconto.
Now the call has gone out to help the family recover from the fire. The first priority is clothing as all got out with just the clothes on their backs which may have been only pajamas on the little ones. Everything else burned.
The list for clothing is as follows:
Ron — jeans 34×34 and shirts in XL.
Janelle — size 3-4 pants and medium tops.
Allison — jeans size 1-2, small shirts.
Mackenzie — Jeans size 10-12 and shirts size 10-12.
Cameron — Jeans 5-6T, shirts size 5-6T.
Joselyn — Jeans 2-3T and shirts 2-3T.
Donation of items and money can be left at Eggleston Oil in Oconto or the Paul Page home at 1145 South 5th Avenue in Broken Bow.
The family will need just about everything to stock a household including kitchenware, dishes, flatware, furniture, sheets, blankets, towels and the list goes on.
A house has been found in Oconto in which they can move into but they family will need all the above to establish a household.
Sandy Eggleston of Eggleston Oil said an account at Nebraska State Bank in Oconto will be established for monetary donations that will be vital to help get the family back on its feet.
Extreme cold made fighting the blaze difficult. With temps around zero, Badgley said they struggled to keep the pumper going, suspecting a sensor was frozen and malfunctioning causing pressure problems. “Not the kind of weather you want to fight fire in,” he said.
They also had problems with valves freezing up and threads that needed to be cleaned of ice before screwing hoses together. An auxiliary pump also froze up and stayed that way until thawing out in the fire barn.
The State Fire Marshal has begun an investigation into the cause of the blaze. The fire marshal and Badgley spent about 2 hours sifting through the ashes and debris where the main fire was located trying to isolate the cause.
Badgley said it was first thought the wood stove was the source but preliminary evidence suggests another source away from the stove. Speculation suggests another exterior wall but it is not yet certain. What that source is remains to be determined.
The building had a tin roof which the fire chief said holds in heat on a burning house making it even more difficult to save anything.
“We could knock it down, we could see it working, then another little spot would get fired up and going.
Between Oconto and Callaway tankers, plus grass rigs, they were able to keep up water supply.
The fire chief expressed appreciation for Callaway Fire and Rescue’s help during this call and all the fires since this last spring.