Family looking for 'miracle' after fire destroys rented house

Cary Ashby • Jun 2, 2018 at 10:00 PM

It has been a daily struggle for the Olson family after the house they called a home is a total loss. 

The family of five has seen plenty of generosity since Wednesday’s fire at 15 Jackson St., Monroeville, but Dustin and Amber Olson wonder daily where they will live. Monroeville Elementary School counselor Amanda Steiber had set up a fund for the family.

“So many people have been so nice,” said Amber as she dabbed away tears. “It’s not what I lost; it’s the home for my children.”

The couple has a GoFundMe page set up under the name “Fundraiser by Sharlene Shupe-Bryant: Family house fire victims.” The website address is https://www.gofundme.com/family-house-fire-victim.

The Huron River Joint Fire District responded to the blaze, which was reported at 12:43 a.m. Wednesday.

“The report came in as a kitchen fire; that is where it started,” Chief Curt Stang said in an earler interview. “The resident put grease on the stove to make french fries and fell asleep. … It overheated and caught fire.”

The rented house is a total loss. While the homeowners are insured, the Olsons didn’t have renter’s insurance and there were no working smoke detectors in the home.

Amber Olson said when her family finds a place to live, they will have a fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and renter’s insurance.

“And a back-up plan; we didn’t have a back-up plan,” she added. “A lesson learned. … All of this could have been avoided.”

Before the fire, Dustin Olson had come home after working for 14 hours.

“I had been working a lot of hours this week,” he said. “I figured it would take two minutes for the grease to heat up.”

Olson went into his 10-year-old son Wyatt’s bedroom to check on him. The father said he was rubbing his son’s head and then fell asleep.

“When I woke up, the ceiling above us was on fire. I grabbed my son and and ran out the door,” Olson said.

His wife just happened to wake up during the fire.

“Something just told me I needed to go downstairs,” she said. “If I had gotten up five seconds later, my kids would have been gone.”

When Amber Olson arrived downstairs, she saw flames about three feet long coming from the kitchen. She said she screamed “fire!,” grabbed her two daughters and let the family pit bull dog out of the house.

“We had been there for a little over two years — almost 2 1/2,” Olson added.

The couple had a hutch set up as a memorial to their son they lost through a miscarriage in 2016. Olson said her husband attempted to go back into the house to retrieve the rose urn with his son’s ashes, but couldn’t gain entry and suffered from smoke inhalation.

“He went into the ambulance and got some air,” their son said.

Firefighters had the blaze under control in about 30 minutes.

Upon arrival, there was heavy smoke throughout the house. Stang said the crew looked through a back window and saw flames throughout the residence.

“The whole back half was burning,” the chief added. “Working smoke detectors would have made all the difference.”

After the fire was out, a firefighter retrieved the urn for the family.

“I was glad to get our son’s urn back,” Dustin Olson said.

A trip into Norwalk even has been traumatic for the family, as the rear passenger wheel fell off of the minivan. A towing service came to the Reflector parking lot to retrieve the van. Dustin Olson has another vehicle, but the fire severely damaged the key, so it had to be recoded and replaced.

“My pastor has been so kind,” Amber Olson said, referring to “Pastor Wayne” at the Monroeville United Church of Christ. “He spent about $200 to get us new clothes.”

The family has been staying at a hotel.

“I can’t afford $500 for two days,” said Olson, who has let her children play in the pool a lot “to keep their minds busy.”

Her husband said it’s doubtful anything left in the house can be salvaged, but he plans to return to see if he can save any clothes in the chest of drawers that were turned over.

“I know most of everything was burnt up,” he added. “But I’m also blessed we all get out safe.”

Amber Olson was asked if she sees any hope on the horizon.

“I hope so. I hope God sends us (another) miracle,” she said. “Everyone at the fire department is not sure how we got out.” 

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