Just north of Padua, disaster struck Jan. 1 – the first day of the new year. The home of Robert and Ann Dean caught fire in the afternoon, and while there were no injuries, the house was destroyed.

Robert was at home shoveling snow and doing laundry while his wife Ann was at work. When Robert first noticed smoke coming out of the roof line, he tracked down the smoke and tried putting it out with water and a fire extinguisher.

“By the time I figured I couldn’t handle it, I called the fire department and I got the heck out,” Robert said. “Then I ran back in to grab the cat.”

Robert called the fire department around 1:45 p.m., and help arrived about 20 minutes later. Due to the fire’s location and the day’s freezing temperatures, both the Sauk Centre Fire Department and the Villard Fire Department were on the scene.

“We called in Villard for manpower and water,” said Steve Moritz, Sauk Centre fire chief. “It was cold out, so we like to have extra; air packs and stuff freeze up, so it’s nice to have more resources available when we have a fire like that.”

The location of the fire also made fighting it difficult. The specific cause of the fire is uncertain, but it appeared that the fire was mostly inside the walls to start with before reaching up into the attic. Firemen needed to cut holes in the house’s roof and gable ends to get into the attic, and later got inside the house to pull down ceilings and spray.

“The house was pretty much destroyed by the time we got done putting out the fire,” Moritz said. “That’s normally what happens on a lot of that stuff. When there’s just a lot of smoke and not a lot of flames, it’s tough to determine where the fire is and where it’s going.”

With the damage from smoke, water, ice and the firefighting demolition, the house is a loss.

While losing his home of 15 years is difficult, Robert remains optimistic. Nobody was injured, and he was able to find his class ring, his wife’s wedding ring and other valuables, all of which were not damaged by the fire. His next steps now depend on his insurance company.

“Things can be replaced,” Robert said. “I’m still alive, and I’m still looking at the right side of the snowbank. I’ve seen enough in my life of death and destruction; you need to look at the bright side of life. I’m still alive and the cat’s still alive – we’ll survive this.”