Family’s possessions go up in smokeAccording to Esko Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen, someone reported smoke in the area at 2:01 a.m. Thursday, but by the time Carlton County deputies found the source of the smoke, the house at 110 Rio Drive had burned “right to the slab.” Fortunately, there were no injuries or loss of life.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
According to Esko Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen, someone reported smoke in the area at 2:01 a.m. Thursday, but by the time Carlton County deputies found the source of the smoke, the house at 110 Rio Drive had burned “right to the slab.”
Fortunately, there were no injuries or loss of life. Unfortunately, the people renting the home lost everything … and they didn’t have renters’ insurance. Carlton County Sheriff Kelly Lake confirmed that the homeowner had been contacted since the fire.
Michael Quam was renting the house with his wife and her two children. An over-the-road trucker, Quam and his wife were in Iowa when they got the call at 3 a.m. saying the house was gone. Her children were at their father’s home and the family’s two pet Shih-Tzu-Poo dogs were in the truck with Quam and his wife.
“I was devastated,” said Quam, about getting the news. “I didn’t know what to think.”
Although he had just gone to sleep about an hour before, he fired up the truck and headed north, to the place they’d called home since October, when Quam had signed a one-year lease with the owner, who was going overseas.
There was pretty much nothing left – all that was left standing was the fireplace and chimney. Quam said the house was cedar-sided with a garage connected to the home by a breezeway.
“I would imagine once the fire got going, it took off pretty fast with that siding,” he said, adding they had been away from the home since the previous Sunday.
“I had the clothes on my back and whatever was in the semi,” Quam said.
Quam said his wife is staying with her mother for now and he is going to be sleeping in his semi until they find another place to rent and stabilize financially.
Jill Hatfield, executive director of Volunteer Services of Carlton County, is coordinating an effort to help the Quams get back on their feet. While the Red Cross provided a couple nights’ stay at a local hotel and some clothes, the family lost everything in the fire. Furniture, appliances, household items, clothing and general contractor’s tools are needed. Specific sizes for all four family members are as follows: Men’s size XL shirts; men’s size 36/36 and 38/30 pants; men’s shoes/boots size 10-1/2 and 12; women’s size 12 and medium junior size tops; women’s size 12 and 5 junior pants; women’s size 8 shoes/boots; women’s and men’s socks; men’s size XL pajama bottoms; and men’s size large hats/caps and gloves.
To donate, call Volunteer Services of Carlton County at 218-879-9238. She asked that people call the office rather than bringing in donations, because – without a home – the Quams have no place to store donations. Grocery store and gas cards would be helpful in the short term.
Quam is optimistic. He is currently interviewing for a job that would allow him to stop truck driving and he’s hoping he will be able to trade labor for contractor tools. Quam asked that anyone with tools to trade or donate call him at 715-969-4034.
“I’d be more than willing to swap my skills as a licensed carpenter for any kind of carpentry tools,” Quam said in an interview Tuesday night. “I’m hoping to get a full-time job off the truck and build on the side. I’ll work seven days a week until we can get back on our feet.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation and is undetermined at this time, Juntunen said.