Flames extinguished before engulfing neighbor’s house
By Scott Bellile
Recalling how Saturday’s late-night blaze spread from the garage to his dwelling, Jerry Holm said, “I watched it slowly gut my house.”
Jerry Holm was going to sleep in his second-story bedroom overlooking his detached garage when he peered out the window and saw flames coming from his garage.
The fire turned Jerry Holm’s garage into ruins and scorched his self-built home, necessitating he start anew if he plans to stay.
“The two-story house is standing, but there’s so much fire damage,” New London Fire Capt. Don Conat told the Press Star Monday, May 15. “The fire went through the roof on the second story before it got extinguished. The structure’s standing, but I’m sure it’s going to need to be rebuilt.”
The New London Fire Department was called to take out the fire at W9661 County Highway S, east of Allcan Road in the town of Liberty, just after 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 13.
Jerry Holm and his family escaped safely, but his home is a total loss. The value of the destruction could exceed “well over $200,000,” Conat stated in a news release.
Nobody was injured. The Red Cross is providing the Holms assistance while they are displaced.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. However, Conat noted Jerry Holm told firefighters he had been charging a battery for a motorized vehicle inside the garage when the fire broke out. The garage stands 4 feet from the house.
The Holm property consists of a one-story trailer house out front, a two-story addition behind it that Holm and his friends built about 10 years ago, and his detached garage next to the addition.
Jerry Holm and his two children live in the addition. His parents, Carol and Wirt Holm, inhabit the trailer house.
Upon firefighters’ arrival, the garage fire had spread to the addition, a camper trailer and a vehicle, as well as a detached garage belonging to next-door neighbor Paul Christian.
Firefighters extinguished a burning wall on Christian’s garage, preventing the spread of flames to his house. The heat melted the siding on the west side of his house.
A car inside Jerry Holm’s garage was destroyed along with another car parked nearby, which he just bought for his teen daughter.
Carol and Wirt Holm’s trailer house sustained melted siding but no major damage.
“It was a miracle of God that it didn’t take our mobile home because they go up so fast,” Carol Holm said. She later added, “We’re just lucky our pets and we all got out, but [it’s] a lot more damage than we thought.”
Jerry Holm echoed his mother’s sentiments that the family’s and pets’ safety matter most. He goes as far as viewing his misfortune with a sense of humor: Already suffering from major health problems, and now losing his home and possessions, life can only possibly get better from here.
“You’re only going to go up. There’s no more going down. … But yeah, it is a bummer, though,” Jerry Holm said.
NLFD called on five surrounding fire departments to help battle the fire: Hortonville-Hortonia, Ellington, Shiocton, Dale and Bear Creek. They remained on scene for three and a half hours.
Before 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 14, New London firefighters returned to the scene to extinguish a smoldering area on the second floor of the house.
A GoFundMe page has been established to help the Holm family get back on its feet. The link is https://www.gofundme.com/help-the-holm-family.
Jerry Holm said he already plans to rebuild, only this time with more help due to his health. As his home burned, he took mental notes on how he’ll build differently next time. His key idea: moving the garage farther from the house.
The Holms’ late-night fire concluded what turned out to be a busy Saturday for New London firefighters. NLFD responded to two other calls earlier that day.
At 12:13 a.m., NLFD was called to 620 E. Pine St. because an occupant smelled smoke. Firefighters searched around and determined the blower in the basement furnace likely shorted out. They did not extinguish anything.
Then that afternoon, NLFD was called to State Highway 156 east of Clintonville to provide a brush truck at the scene of a marsh fire. New London’s services ultimately weren’t needed and firefighters went home.