This story was ghostwritten by Joe Mellenbruch, based on an experience by Maggie Miller, a Devils Lake Journal employee, who gave Joe details of her personal experience with a house fire that occurred February of 1995 in Devils Lake.
DEVILS LAKE -- In light of the recent fire at the Dakota Dry Bean elevator on College Drive, it inspired me to reflect on another Devils Lake blaze, one that affected me firsthand.
On Feb. 7, 1995, a rather famous North Dakota blizzard happened upon us suddenly and swiftly, as they tend to do, but what happened later that night is what sticks out in my mind with absolute clarity.
It was a fairly typical winter day in Devils Lake for the most part: snow, wind, you know the story. At around 7 p.m., I had left to run a quick errand to the grocery store, and as I left the house, I heard sirens in the distance, maybe an ambulance, maybe police.
As I approached the highway in my 1974 Dodge Dart, I saw through the nearing zero-visibility that the approaching red lights ahead of me belonged to two green fire trucks, belonging to the Rural Fire Department.
I remembered thinking to myself as they drove by: "I feel sorry for any fireman that has to battle a fire in these conditions."
Little did I know at the time that those trucks were heading directly for my parents' home.
With my hands full of grocery bags, I walked up to my own house with the phone ringing inside. I rushed to answer it in time, but I took it off the hook just a second too late.
Almost immediately, it fired up again.
My first thought was that it was probably my mom, checking to make sure I had gotten home safely and out of the hazardous winter weather.
I was right, it was her, but I immediately knew something was wrong by the way she shouted my name when I answered.
Then she blurted out, "Our house is on fire, we're all over at the neighbors, everyone made it out safe, even the dog."
I instantly flashed back to my earlier thought in the car, and it was then that I realized: I was about to watch my first house go up in flames.
When I arrived at my parents' neighbor's house, my family was outside, watching in awe at the brave firefighters battling the blaze amid the thick, whirling snow.
I stood astonished as the house in which I was born and raised burned in front of my eyes.
Luckily for us, as the weather continued to worsen, we were able to seek refuge in the neighbor's warm kitchen, a luxury that the firefighters could not afford.
Page 2 of 2 - Fighting the fire proved to be a tough task, one that started in a downstairs closet full of clothing and papers and tore its way up through the attic, which was also abundant in clothing, papers and its fair share of insulation.
It might as well have been a pile of kindling soaked in lighter fluid.
Although temperatures on that night 16 years ago were not nearly as bitter as the -40-50º our wind chills our own local firefighters had to endure on when the Dakota Dry Bean elevator went up on Jan. 5, the effort that I witnessed from those brave men that night showed me just how thankful we should all be for their dedicated service and watchful eye.
Not only do our firefighters and other first responders have to work through even the most perilous conditions, they put their lives on the line when others fall in danger. They're the people who stand up to fires like the one we saw in early January, not because they're being forced to, but because they make their lives' work helping others.
Without your help, my family might have suffered serious injury. Without your help, that grain elevator fire could have spread even further.
We should all feel thankful for the service that our local firefighters and policemen provide to our town. So, when you see one in the street or drive by them on the highway, give a wave. Shake their hand. Thank them for the work that they do.
Devils Lake recently witnessed firsthand again how much we need them.