By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
Nearly a year of work on remodeling their home literally went up in flames Saturday for a rural Chase County couple and their two children.
Chris and Jamie Jussel and children, Kristen, 13, and Logan, 8, were left with just the clothes on their backs and what was in their vehicles after the fire completely destroyed their home, the former Terry Martin place, about 20 miles southwest of Imperial.
On Tuesday night, Jamie Jussel said she and her family haven’t been able to process the ordeal yet.
“We’re now at the stage where we’re numb, and we are just going day-to-day,” she said.
There were a lot of personal items lost that just can’t be replaced, she said.
“The video tapes of the kids, their baby books,” she said.
She even lost her wedding ring and watch, which she hadn’t put on before running to town with daughter Kristen that morning. There were mementoes from her great grandmother in the house, too.
Jamie had just eaten lunch in Imperial when husband Chris called her, telling her their house was on fire.
When she arrived on the scene, Jamie said, “I was just sick.”
The fire apparently started on the east side of the house, and may have been linked to the old home’s wiring.
Chris and son Logan had been changing oil in a vehicle that morning in their unattached shop several yards away, southwest of the house.
They left for about 15 minutes, and when they returned, the house was on fire.
A passerby had first reported the fire, and Chris also made a 911 call from his cell phone reporting it.
Members of the Imperial Volunteer Fire Department (IVFD) were paged just after 12:30 p.m., and took six vehicles to the scene, including the department’s newest rural pumper and tanker.
Fire Chief Bryan Dannatt said the home was completely involved when they arrived on the scene and there wasn’t any chance of saving the structure.
Mutual aid help from fire departments in Lamar, Venango, Haigler and Holyoke, Colo., were called in for additional manpower and water. Those departments brought another eight units to the scene.
While there was no hope in saving the ranch-style home, Dannatt said the additional aid from other departments was needed to help the fire from spreading to nearby trees and grass.
“It was a complete loss, it was completely gone,” Dannatt said.
Shortly after arriving on the scene, Dannatt called in State Fire Marshall Office investigator Ryan Sylvester of Ogallala.
Jamie said the Fire Marshal indicated to them that wiring may likely have been the cause. The Jussels’ insurance investigator was also on the scene Tuesday.
They did have home insurance, and Jamie said their local agent here has been a lot of help as they recover from the fire. Likewise, they have had a lot of great support from the community, she said.
Since purchasing the home after moving back to the area a year ago, the Jussels had completely gutted the kitchen and had remodeled every room in the house but one. They had just finished the work in Logan’s room last week.
Some of the furniture in their home had been refinished by Jamie’s mother, and had special meaning to them. The family also lost their house cat in the blaze.
But, Jamie said they are thankful no one was injured.
American Red Cross representatives were on the scene within an hour of the fire. They provided the family with gift cards, some of which were used to purchase a week’s worth of clothing for all of them, Jamie said.
The Jussels stayed several nights after the fire with her parents, Steve and Peggy Smith, before moving into a rental duplex in Imperial on Tuesday.
Due to the winds that were expected Sunday, Fire Chief Dannatt said the one wall left standing after the fire was under control was knocked down before they left the scene.
The firefighters from Imperial were on the scene about five hours Saturday.
The high winds did come Sunday as forecast, and some of the local firefighters returned to the scene after a flare-up was reported. Dannatt said they had to put out some flames again early that afternoon.