Volunteers help search Judy and Ken Esplan's home for salvageable items Wednesday afternoon. Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyherald.com
Volunteers help search Judy and Ken Esplan's home for salvageable items Wednesday afternoon. Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

Couple sorts through rubble after losing home to fire

Published 10:28am Thursday, March 14, 2013

‘I heard some snapping’

BLOOMING PRAIRIE — For almost 40 years, Ken and Judy Esplan lived in a nice house on the 200 block of Second Street Northwest in Blooming Prairie. They bought it when they first got married, and over the years have expanded it to a five-bedroom, two-bath home.

That house is gone, hollowed out, after a fire started in the Esplan’s detached garage a few feet away at about 2 a.m. Monday.

“The fire department was on the scene for seven hours trying to stop it,” Judy said.

Judy Esplan, left, goes over papers with her niece, Mackenzie Trom, at the Esplans’ former home Wednesday afternoon. The home, on the 200 block of Second Street Northwest in Blooming Prairie, caught fire at 2 a.m. Monday and was declared a total loss. Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyherald.com
Judy Esplan, left, goes over papers with her niece, Mackenzie Trom, at the Esplans’ former home Wednesday afternoon. The home, on the 200 block of Second Street Northwest in Blooming Prairie, caught fire at 2 a.m. Monday and was declared a total loss. Trey Mewes/trey.mewes@austindailyherald.com

Judy was the one who saw the fire first. Ken went to bed in their second-story bedroom at about 11 p.m. Sunday, with Judy soon following. Yet for some reason, Judy just couldn’t sleep. In the middle of the night, Judy began to hear some strange noises.

“It sounded like a plow going by, or a train going into town, but then I heard some snapping and popping,” she said.

She got up and went to another bedroom, where she noticed a glow coming from the window. She thought it was strange, until she looked outside.

“There were flames shooting already over the top of the house on the west side,” Judy said. “I just went down the hall screaming my husband’s name.”

After waking Ken, Judy went downstairs to call 911, but a neighbor was already knocking on the door.

Judy and Ken went outside, and by then the Blooming Prairie Fire Department was on the scene. Their daughter Jenny Hendrickson, who lives across the street, wasn’t aware of the fire at first, but saw the commotion when she woke up.

“I see lights, and then I hear pounding on the door, and it’s Mom and Dad,” Jenny said.

Volunteers pore through the remains of Judy and Ken Esplan's Blooming Prairie home Wednesday. The Esplans' home started on fire early Monday morning.
Volunteers pore through the remains of Judy and Ken Esplan’s Blooming Prairie home Wednesday. The Esplans’ home started on fire early Monday morning.

The fire department still doesn’t know what caused the fire, only that it started in the Esplans’ garage. Judy and Ken are staying at Jenny’s house, and are still trying to find some of their belongings, though a fire inspector declared the home a total lost.

“From his professional opinion there’s nothing salvageable,” Judy said, choking up. “Of course, we aren’t going to believe that.”

There were a lot of memories lost in the fire. Judy knows her mother’s baby basonet, which Judy used as an infant and which her children and their children have used, is gone. The dining room table that belonged to her grandmother is gone. A small table Judy’s parents used when they were married is gone.

Even Judy’s great-grandmother’s baking center, complete with “a shelf for spices, and a roll top that covered your flour container, sugar container, a flour bin, a butcher block top so you had more room to roll out your pie crust,” is gone. That’s not including the wedding pictures, baby photos, Judys’ quilt collection and other valuable keepsakes which are now lost.

“There’s just so many things gone now,” Judy said. “… A lot of memories. All our kids were born there, raised there.”

A fire destroyed Judy and Ken Esplan's home early Monday morning, including the couple's master bedroom upstairs.
A fire destroyed Judy and Ken Esplan’s home early Monday morning, including the couple’s master bedroom upstairs.

Yet the community is stepping in to support the Esplans, and to help replace what they can. More than a dozen family members and volunteers went through the Esplan’s former home Wednesday in search of salvageable items, which included a small coffee pouch, various papers and baby clothes. Even a few lost items were found, as someone showed Judy the shells of Ken’s hearing aids, which the couple had thought lost.

“I don’t think he’ll be able to use them, though,” Judy said with a slight smile.

Though the Esplans are staying with their daughter, Judy said several families have offered up homes across the town, and the Esplans are still figuring out what to do next. Judy says the community, including her family, friends and members of her church, have been “amazing,” but volunteers appeared more than happy to help.

“They’ve been through so much,” said Mary Jane Linde, Judy’s sister-in-law.

Judy has taken the week off from her job as a tax preparer, but said she’s likely to come back to work starting this weekend once things calm down. She’d like to return to a sense of normalcy soon.

“I’m just thinking it’ll be good,” she said.


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