FIRE DESTROYS HOME SOUTHWEST OF FREEMAN
A difficult fire to get at and adverse weather conditions made for a significant challenge for firefighters responding to call southwest of Freeman late last week and resulted in the total loss of a home owned by Menno resident Darrell Mehlhaf and occupied by his nephew, Mitch and his family.
Nobody was home at the time of the fire and crews were dispatched to the scene at 10:49 a.m. Friday, Jan. 26, on a day when windchills were below zero and snow was blowing across the road. The fire was called in by a neighbor.
The one-and-a-half story home was occupied by Darrell years ago and is part of a quarter second of ground he still farms; the address is 43663 283rd Street and is located four miles south and a three miles west of Freeman.
Cody Fransen, an assistant fire chief who was on the scene, said an attached double garage was fully engulfed in flames when the Freeman Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene and was getting into the attached breezeway. A tractor on the south side of the home was also on fire.
Fransen said the Menno Volunteer Fire Department was immediate called for mutual aid and containing the fire proved to be very difficult for a number of reasons. A steel roof made it challenging to get to the flames that were burning the wooden shingles beneath, and the freezing temperatures impacted equipment and mobility. Getting on site in the first place was slow because of snow-covered roads, and firefighters relied on what Fransen called “Good Samaritans” using heavy equipment to make the roads easier to pass through during the day-long fight.
“It was a bad situation,” Fransen said of the circumstances.
Darrell Mehlhaf is not a member of Menno’s fire department but was also on the scene and said crews from both communities did their best in a challenging battle.
“They worked it very hard, but everything that could have made a bad scenario worse played into the situation,” he said.
Darrell said that, by mid-afternoon, he and those in command on the scene agreed that all had been done and they would let the fire go.
“We had a conversation about that,” he said, noting that he supported the decision. “Everything was burning; it wasn’t going to be put out.”
“You feel bad about it, but we decided to let it go,” Fransen said. “It was a total loss anyway.”
Fransen said firefighters were able to enter the structure and retrieve a fair amount of the family’s personal belongings, and Darrell said Mitch, his wife Amy and their children are currently living with family.
The cause is the fire is not confirmed but believed to be electrical, said Fransen, who noted firefighters were on the scene well after dark.