Cold weather-related fires have resulted in an influx of calls to the Firefighter Ministry to help families.
As of Feb. 19, Firefighter Ministry has provided assistance to 10 families since Jan. 1.
In the last week, Firefighter Ministry director Carissa Schank said the organization provided aid to families impacted in five different fires.
She said that the busy week started with a minor fire, handled by the Gering Fire Department, on Feb. 13. A family suffered some minor setbacks after a furnace fire in Gering. The family was able to remain in their home, she said.
On Feb. 14, a Bayard family of six found themselves displaced after a chimney fire took out the heat source in their home The homes water lines were also frozen.
Schank said that the family is displaced until at least Tuesday and are staying in a hotel. It’s hoped that repairs to their home will be made by then and they can return.
Firefighter Ministry also responded to Hemingford early Tuesday, after a fire at the home of Dave and Blanch Randolph on Wyoming Drive. Firefighters were called to the home at about 10 p.m. Monday and the cause of the fire was traced back to the fireplace.
Schank said that Firefighter Ministry helped with initial accommodations at an Alliance motel as the couple were displaced, but additional accommodations would be made through the couple’s home insurance. Fundraisers and other efforts have also been organized by the Hemingford community.
An elderly woman displaced after a gas explosion at a Lewellen home has also been assisted by Firefighter Ministry. Reports indicate that on Tuesday evening, the woman’s home had been destroyed in the explosion. The woman had reported the smell of gas at the home, called a local propane company and a technician responded to investigate the smell. The home exploded after the technician went into a downstairs are to investigate. The technician, who was transported by helicopter to a hospital, is said to still be hospitalized with serious injuries, Schank said.
The woman is staying with a caregiver, she said, so Firefighter Ministry is providing food and clothing assistance. The woman does have home insurance.
The Firefighter Ministry is also helping with assistance in a Feb. 14 fire more than 300 miles away in the community of Ravenna. In that fire, a couple expecting a baby lost all their belongings after a fire damaged the home. Schank said the fire was reported to have been attributed to a gas furnance. The family does have insurance, but needed immediate assistance and had not gotten aid from other sources. Gering Firefighter Doug Vance recently wrote an article in a newsletter for Nebraska firefighters and the Ravenna Fire Department referred the family to Firefighter Ministry.
For fires outside of the Panhandle, Schank said, aid is dependent on the circumstances, but Firefighter Ministry tries to provide assistance as often as possible.
“We want to be able to help these people, especially (as this couple was) not getting any help at all,” she said. “We have to consider the circumstances.”
Firefighter Ministry was able to assist the family with a voucher for food, clothing and gas.
In 2020, Schank said, the organization provided aid for 31 fires and natural disasters. It nears a record set in 2017, when the organization helped in 37 fires and other disasters.
Firefighter Ministry is funded largely by donations from the public. The organization is now its own nonprofit and donations can be sent to P.O. Box 531, Scottsbluff, NE 69363-0531.
Contact Schank for additional information on Firefighter Ministry, 308-631-9674.