By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN It was a busy Saturday for Winsted firefighter Cody Krause, who had set aside the morning of March 28 to take the family’s two dogs and cat to the vet.
He was returning one of the animals to the car when he realized his pager was beeping and he had missed a call.
When he hit replay, he not only discovered a possible house fire in the Westgate neighborhood in Winsted, he learned it was his house on fire.
He ran back into the clinic and told the vet, ‘I think my house is on fire. I have to go,’” Krause said. He jumped in his car and headed for home.
“It was one hell of a ride back to town,” he said.
All the way back to Winsted, Krause was watching for smoke and hoping there really wasn’t a fire after all.
His hope died as he turned by Casey’s and saw a squad car blocking the road off. As he drove around, he saw the Winsted and Lester Prairie fire departments.
“Normally with a big house fire, you see the smoke, but they (firefighters) had got it knocked down pretty fast,” Krause said.
“Rhonda Herbolsheimer of Winsted, a family friend, had come around the side of the pumper and she was crying,” Krause said. “I just broke down. I just couldn’t believe it.”
Cody called his wife, Laura, who had been away on a mini vacation at her sister’s in New London with their daughter, Taylor, 9.
Cody and Laura’s youngest daughter, Jaydin, 17 months, had been staying with friends.
“I don’t remember much of that day,” Laura said. “I had asked Cody how Mia our female boxer was, because she was pregnant. That was when he told me the house was on fire.”
Laura left Taylor with her sister and headed for home.
“It was a long two-hour drive home,” Laura said. “At first, I just couldn’t wait to get here, but the closer I got, I just wanted to turn around.”
By the time Laura arrived at the house, the fire was out and they were getting ready to board up the windows.
“I saw my husband and I knew my girls were safe,” Laura said, trying to be positive. But it was still difficult for her to stand there looking at the many family possessions that had been thrown out of the house in an effort to put out the fire.
“You just stand there in amazement and see everything all over the yard,” Laura said.
Not much was salvageable from the home. All of the family photos are gone.
“Most of the plastic throughout the whole house melted,” Cody said. “Photo albums that we did find in the house were just one big block of plastic. You couldn’t open them because they were melted together.”
A cedar chest filled with wedding keepsakes, a Rubbermaid tub with some items, and photos of Laura when she was younger were all that the family was able to save.
Laura’s father’s hand saw, found in the yard, and a quilt her sister had made from her father’s old shirts will be kept and preserved as best they can mementoes of Laura’s father, who died seven years ago.
For the quick response and hard work of both the Winsted and Lester Prairie fire departments in putting out the house fire, the couple have nothing but appreciation.
“The boys did a good job,” Laura said.
“Those guys put it (fire) out and they did a fast job,” Cody said. “I just am mad that I hadn’t been there to help.”
Since the fire, the Krauses cannot believe how generous the community has been to them. It was just two years ago they had moved to Winsted from Waconia, preferring the smaller town.
“People have been so generous. We have gotten a lot of clothes, toys, books, and art supplies,” Laura said.
Taylor is in third grade at Winsted Elementary, where donations have been dropped off regularly since the fire.
Fire Chief Chad Engel had seen the stuffed animals thrown in the yard after the fire. The same day of the fire, he went and bought Taylor and Jaydin some items to replace things he had seen damaged.
“The guys (Winsted Fire Department) have been absolutely wonderful,” Cody said.
One of the ways the fire department is trying to help out is to host a benefit for the family at the American Legion in Winsted, Saturday, May 2.
A silent auction will take place from 1 to 7 p.m. A hog roast dinner will be served beginning at 4 p.m., and will be served until the food runs out. The price of the meal is $10 per person.
Not just thinking of themselves, the Krauses have already talked about ways they will be able to help others under the same circumstances, once they get back on their feet.
“We talked about when people have fires,” Laura said. “We would put together a care kit because we have been through it and we know. Things that are missing like a toothbrush, deodorant putting something together and just giving back,” Laura said.
Cody talked about how the fire will make him a better fireman after living through the devastation a fire brings to a home and people’s lives.
“I will have a lot more compassion and sympathy in the future for people who lose their homes,” Cody said.
State Fire Marshal Casey Stotts determined during a preliminary review of the scene that the fire appeared to be electrical in nature (note: it was reported earlier that Stotts made a final determination about this. This is not the case).
However, the fire is still under investigation. It started in the basement in a closet under the steps.
The Krauses are ready to move forward with their lives but their insurance company is what is holding up that process.
“It is our whole life sitting there, and I feel like they are dragging their feet,” Cody said. “If they would just put themselves in our shoes.”