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Fulton family loses home to fire

The remains of the Nelson home near Fulton smolder Wednesday morning after a Tuesday night fire destroyed the home and garage. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 3
A Saint Francis of Assisi statue stands Wednesday where a Tuesday night fire destroyed the Nelson family home about five miles northeast of Fulton. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 3
A charred toy truck is among the ruins of the Nelson home Wednesday morning near Fulton. The home was destroyed by fire Tuesday night. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)3 / 3

FULTON — As flames were jumping from Doug and Mary Nelson’s home, neighbors were saving what they could.

Tuesday night, a fire burned down the Nelsons’ house at 24803 422nd Ave., about five miles northeast of Fulton. The family, including children — Douglas, 10, and Robert, 5 — was returning around 8:30 p.m. from a girls’ high school basketball game in Alexandria and saw the glow from the flames.

Wednesday, Doug Nelson said the “true, genuine support” from friends and family has been incredible.

“When you live in a small community, it makes us so fortunate to have the kind of friends that we have,” he said. “If they had not gotten there, I think everything would have been gone.”

The remains were smoldering Wednesday morning. The residence and garage were mostly burned to the ground, but nobody was injured.

“I’m thankful none of the firemen got hurt and my family is safe,” Nelson said. “Everything else is just stuff. Everything we need is around us, our family and our friends. I thank God for the fact it didn’t happen four hours later when we were sleeping.”

Nelson’s outlook contrasted with the grim scene, where a soot-stained statue of Saint Francis of Assisi stood above the ruins. A trampoline next to the house had ember-burned holes, and a patch of ice showed where the firefighters worked to save the home, which sits on about 2.5 acres.

Doug received a notification call about the fire Tuesday night from his brother, Stace Nelson, a rural Fulton resident and Republican legislator who is running for the U.S. Senate.

“My brother called me saying a neighbor had called, thinking there was a fire at our place,” Nelson said. “I rushed over there and by the time we got there, the fire had engulfed part of the house.”

When Doug and his family arrived, neighbors and friends were pulling belongings out of the garage. Two vehicles and a four-wheeler were among the items saved.

Hanson County Sheriff Randy Bartlett — who was first to respond to the scene — said Wednesday, “Anyone who saw it was running over to help them. You could see the fire for miles.”

The Alexandria Fire Department, the Hanson County Sheriff’s Department and Hanson County Emergency Management all responded to the scene.

Alexandria Fire Chief Nick Rehorst said firefighters battled the blaze for about two hours. Tuesday’s night’s cold temperatures — the low was -4 — froze pumps and hoses, which ultimately shut down the battle.

“We couldn’t really pump any more water,” Rehorst said. “Our suction hoses weren’t sucking anymore.”

Four fire vehicles arrived and there were at least 12 firefighters battling the flames. Rehorst said the fire had engulfed the house when the crew arrived, but it had not yet reached the attached garage on the east side of the residence. Both were ultimately destroyed by the fire.

Rehorst said there are no leads into the cause of the fire and it has not been deemed suspicious. He said it was just “bad luck” and said the Nelsons do have a wood-burning stove, but it was not lit during the time of the fire.

Rehorst said this was the first residential fire the Alexandria Fire Department has battled since last April’s spring ice storm, when the town of about 615 people lost power.

The Nelsons are unsure where they’re going to stay in the near future. Doug Nelson said he has received several calls offering beds for the family, and he wants to keep his kids in the Hanson School District.

“We’re going to buy some toothbrushes, toothpaste, hug each other and just talk,” Nelson said. “We plan to rebuild out there. We’ve been out there 20 years. The shell is gone, but we’ll put a new home there. That’s our plan now.

“I also just want to thank everyone who’s reached out to us and let them know we really appreciate the kind words and that they’ve been thinking and praying for us. It really is comforting.”