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Menahga family loses everything in New Year's Eve fire

Diann Phillips watches what is left of her rural Menahga home smolder. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

     A Menahga family is homeless after a New Year’s Eve fire burned their house to the ground.

     Diann and Ken Phillips watched Wednesday morning as flames continued to lick at the remains of the frame home on Wadena County 31, two miles east of Menahga.

     Fire departments from Menahga, Park Rapids and Sebeka battled sub-zero temperatures in the futile effort.

     The home they’d live in for 25 years was gone in two hours.

     “We’re waiting for the Salvation Army,” said Diann Phillips, shivering in the cold. Wednesday’s high wasn’t forecast to reach 10 below zero.

     The couple was not home when the fire started sometime before 9 p.m. But their son-in-law and his three children, ages 6, 4 and 8 months, were home.

     The son-in-law tried in vain to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames in the basement near the chimney.

     He had called his in-laws to report the fire and his inability to salvage anything but a gun and chain saw.

     They told him to get the kids out and save himself.

     The two rushed home. The house was engulfed.

     The couple, who run an auto body business at the site, was not insured.

     “We’re waiting for the Salvation Army to come,” Diann Phillips said.

     A fund has been set up at the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Department in Park Rapids, their son Jason said.

     Son Josh, a volunteer firefighter with the Menagha Department, rushed to the scene when his pager went off.

     Menahga chief Dave Kicker called Park Rapids in under a mutual aid agreement that covers structure fires. Sebeka trucks also raced to the scene.

     Diann Phillips said she was humbled and grateful for the freezing firefighters’ work to save the home.

     The couple’s dog and cat got out safely, but one of the grandchildren’s dogs died in the fire. No one was injured.

     “We’re not used to asking for help,” Diann Phillips said. “We’re usually the ones helping. We’ll get through this.”         

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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