Firefighters battle sub-zero weather to save homes from flames

A fire in the early hours of Thursday morning severely damaged a house at 602 S. Lincoln in Hillsboro.

The owners and residents, Timothy and Asia Frye and their 18-month-old daughter, escaped without injury after being awaken by smoke alarms.

The call to the Hillsboro Fire Depart?ment came in at 1:36 a.m. HFD volunteers arrived on the scene within two minutes and found the garage fully engulfed, according to Chief Ben Steketee, who was first on the scene. He said by the time he arrived neighbors were already coming to the aid of the Fryes.

?This was an extreme situation,? Steketee said. ?Not only do you have the extreme cold, but you have a fire on top of it and a family with a youngster. All the neighbors were banding together to help out. I was really impressed by that.?

The department?s brush truck was the first engine to arrive on the scene. Firefighters were greeted by temperatures hovering around zero degrees with a strong north wind.

The wind kept the flames from jumping to the house owned by Dennis and Tracy Boldt just south of the Frye residence, Steketee said, but it also pushed the flames back toward the Fryes? house.

The flames were too extreme to send anyone back into the house to save personal belongings, according to Steketee.

?We attacked the fire head on, right there at the garage because the Boldt house was in danger of catching fire, too,? he said. ?We wanted to get that cooled down and darkened down as quickly as we could to keep it from spreading to the Boldts?.?

Even so, the south end of the Boldt house sustained heat damage to the exterior siding and a broken window.

Steketee said the fire was extinguished relatively quickly, with cleanup operations commencing within an hour. He characterized the damage as significant.

?The garage is completely destroyed, the kitchen sustained heavy damage and the roof sustained some damage?and some of the damage we did by pulling the Sheetrock down (to get to the fire in the attic),? Steketee said.

?I think it?s restorable,? he added. ?The garage needs to be totally rebuilt, but I think we saved the greater percentage of the structure. It?s remarkable.?

The cause of the fire is not known.

Ironically, Steketee said at the department?s routine fire drill on Wednesday evening, he and his crew had gone over procedures and tips for fighting fires in extreme cold conditions.

?It?s such an amazing coincidence,? he said.

Timothy Frye teaches math at Tabor College; Asia Frye is the youth pastor at First Mennonite Church in Hillsboro.

Since the fire, the Frye family has been living with his parents near Goessel.

First Mennonite has made arrangements to ensure the families immediate needs are being met.

Items on a list of possible donations include:

n Size 38/30 pants and medium short for Timothy;

n Maternity pants size 10 or medium, and maternity tops;

n Gloves for the adults;

n Tennis shoes, size 8 for Asia;

n Diaper bag;

n Size 3 diapers and wipes;

n 12-18-month pants for Abi;

n 18-24-month shirts for Abi;

n Size 5 shoes and size 18-month socks for Abi;

n Children?s books;

n Puzzles for a young child.

Joining Steketee in battling the fire were volunteer firefighters Murray Koop, Lloyd Spencr, Lyle Isaac, Kenny Ollenburger, David Lancaster, Mike Duerk?sen, Glenn Ratzlaff, Joe Alvarez, Troy Klein, jason Plett, Randy Welch, Todd Helmer and Matt Hein.

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