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Family Member Describes Watching Home go up in Flames in Weekend Fire

A St. Joseph family of eight has been searching for a new place to call home after a weekend fire severely damaged their home.

Posted: May. 8, 2018 12:42 AM
Updated: May. 8, 2018 12:42 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A St. Joseph family of eight has been searching for a new place to call home after a weekend fire severely damaged their house.

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The fire happened on the 1100 block of Church Street, damaging four separate structures and three cars. The St. Joseph Fire Department was able to rescue two of the homes, but the other two collapsed.

The fire originated in a vacant home, but quickly spread to the three other occupied houses. All together, 14 people were displaced by the fire.

"We heard this loud, loud bang and we were unsure what it was, but we didn't hear anything else," Mandy Krebs, fire victim, said. "All of the sudden, I'm sitting on my couch and the back window exploded - it shattered everywhere. We turned around and looked out the window, and the house was just fully engulfed in flames."

Krebs said her and her seven family members were able to make it out of the home safely. She described escaping from the home as terrifying and extremely emotional.

"As quickly as that abandoned house went up and the house next to it, I just had a sense of panic. I was watching everything just burn around me," Krebs said.

Krebs and her family, along with several pets, made it out of the home safe. No injuries were reported in the fire, but Krebs said it has taken an emotional toll on all of them.

"A sense of panicking, and then you're overwhelmed and you're bawling one minute because you just - I mean yes, the building is still there, but everything in the building is a total loss," Krebs said. 

The home was a family home that Krebs said was originally her grandfather's. The family does plan on repairing the house, but that could take several months.

Krebs said most of the damage is smoke and water related, however flames did get into her daughter's bedroom. She said that room and a few other areas are completely destroyed.

The damage amount adds up to about $100,000, according to Krebs.

"Thank God we had insurance so those things that were lost will be replaced, but that will take some time," Krebs said. "We are still out of immediate things like clothes, shoes, toiletries."

The American Red Cross was called on scene to assist Krebs, her family and the other individuals affected by the flames.

"One thing is you feel good to be able to help them and accomplish that first step in their recovery which is getting situated. Then again, you also have empathy and you kinda feel the situation that they're in," Ralph Dishong, American Red Cross, said.

Krebs said she's called authorities several times on people trespassing into the vacant structure that caught fire. She said she wasn't surprised the home went up in flames.

"We knew someone was going to hit that house and target it, we knew it. We watched a house last year just a few blocks down the road go up in flames, and we knew with all the house fires going around that it was going to happen eventually to this one," Krebs said. 

The St. Joseph Fire Department said situations like this where multiple building catch fire doesn't happen often. They said firefighters had to fight small spaces between the homes, high winds and the embers landing on other structures nearby.

"The Battalion Chief on scene described it perfectly. He said there were embers the size of dollar bills, and they were floating and even landing a block over on Henry [Street]," Mindy Andrasevits, SJFD fire inspector, said. "The residents were calling and the firefighters were going around to all the other homes and making sure that they were safe."

The cause of the fire has not been determined and is still under investigation.

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