Heather and Adam Culbert were carefully making their way back to Cloquet from Duluth on April 12 during the late-season snowstorm when they got a potentially nightmarish call from their son Jason, but he started with the important part.
"Mom, we're all safe," Jason, 12, said. "There's a fire."
Jason had gone down into the basement of their Cloquet home near Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to check on laundry. He found a fire, quickly got his brother Ethan, sister Alicia and their dog, Molly, out of the house and called 911.
Heather and Adam hurried home, hoping it was a minor fire, but when they arrived, that wasn't the case. The blaze had turned most of the basement black and the floor was flooded by the Cloquet Area Fire District's efforts to extinguish the blaze. Every room in the house suffered heavy smoke and water damage.
"I never thought it could happen to us," Heather said.
Many of the family's belongings were ruined in the blaze. They have been living in two rooms at the AmericInn in Cloquet for the past few weeks.
The cause of the fire is still undetermined, Heather said. Their insurance company and contractors are going through the house to determine the extent of the damage.
Heather works at least six days a week at Culbert's Cafe - the couple's Cloquet diner - while Adam has continued his job at Canadian National Railway. In their spare time, the Culberts were looking for a short-term rental, which can be difficult to find in Cloquet, especially with a dog in the mix. While they haven't quite given up on finding a rental, the couple is also looking to purchase a camper so they can reside on their property while the house is repaired.
The community has also stepped up to help the Culberts. A GoFundMe online crowdfunding campaign was set up to fundraise for expenses. The family has also received gifts of clothes, furniture and toys in the weeks since the fire.
"People I don't even know have dropped off clothes or toys for the kids," Heather said. "It's overwhelming all the support we've had."