Fire destroys home near Indianola

Fire destroys home near Indianola

INDIANOLA — Around 9:15 a.m. Monday, the power at Thomas Owens and Mary Hamm's house went out for about 45 minutes.

The couple thought it was a power surge and went about their day.

But when Owens got home from work around 3 p.m., he smelled something burning. He checked each room but didn't find anything.

Then the couple, with their 2-year-old son, went outside. The yard was filling with thick, black smoke, billowing from the attic of their home.

The fire destroyed the couple's home at 11672 E. 350 N Road southeast of Indianola. Fire officials say it started in the attic and believe it may have been electrical.

Owens said the family did not have insurance.

Still, he's grateful that he, Hamm and their youngest weren't injured, and four older children — two other boys and two girls, who are 13 and younger — were at school when the fire broke out.

"In my eyes, we made it out," said Owens, who estimates the roof and attic were fully engulfed in flames 10 minutes after he got home. "Everything can be replaced. The hardest part is trying to explain to the kids why they have nothing. ... It's just hard when you see them cry themselves to sleep at night."

Julie Williams, Owen's mother, said she had just dropped off three large garbage bags stuffed with Christmas presents for the kids last Friday. Those are now gone.

Owens said fortunately, he and Hamm did some shopping online this past weekend, but the orders had not yet arrived.

"UPS is going to arrive, but there won't be a house for them to deliver to," he said.

Ron Hubbard, chief of the Carroll Township Fire Protection District, said 55 firefighters from Carroll Township, Ridge Farm, Chrisman, Georgetown, Westville, Catlin, Fairmount, Sidell and Lynch helped fight the blaze, which could be seen from miles away.

When the first crews arrived, Hubbard said, heavy smoke was coming from the attic.

"It had to be fire up there, too, because it went very quickly," he said. "It was a total loss."

He said firefighters also had to fight the cold, but no one was injured. He said the water froze on the roads, making them slick, so the Carroll Township road commissioner put sand on the road.

Crews remained on the scene until 8 to 9 p.m.

Owens said fire officials "are leaning toward it being electrical. ... They think maybe a mouse or a squirrel chewed a wire, and basically ground it out. Then a spark ignited the insulation in the attic."

Immediately, family members, friends and community members jumped in to help the couple, who are known for always helping others out.

Williams said two friends, Crys Flinchum Glines and Ashley Buhrns, have started a Go Fund Me page to help the family relocate and start over. It's at: https://www.gofundme.com/5k2nag-total-fire-loss?fbclid=IwAR3D3G9a4bKQ_Yf...

Owens said a local construction company put his family up in a rental home in Sidell. However, Williams said they lost everything except the clothes they were wearing, and a tote of pictures Owens was able to grab on the way out. In addition to clothing, Williams is trying to collect household and other items for them.

Donations can be dropped off at Salt Fork South Elementary School, Casey's General Store in Fairmount and Kinney's Fitness Zone and GreenTree Banquet Center in Tilton.

Williams said clothing sizes that are needed are boys' sizes 12, 8 and 3T and shoe sizes 7, 2 and 6T; girls' sizes 10 and 7 and shoe sizes 3 and 1; women's size 7 pants and medium tops and shoe size 7; and men's size 34 by 34 pants and large shirts and shoes size 12.

Kim Shonk, a friend of Hamm's, said a church in Indianola that the village partners with to provide Christmas food baskets plans to use some of its extra funding to help provide Christmas gifts to the family.

"Right now, they're just taking this one step at a time," Shonk said. "But they're strong. If something knocks them down, they'll get back up again."

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