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Family begins rebuilding lives after fire

Brinn, Jason, Johnna and Brielle Krabbenhoft stand near the new house they'll move into next year. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Brinn Krabbenhoft and her family learned the hard way it's better to give than receive.

When the family home and Brinn's home daycare was gutted by fire Sept. 4, offers of help started pouring in within hours of the blaze.

The Krabbenhofts found it difficult to accept the offers.

"I thought we'd only need help from the immediate family and there was the philosophy that, 'I can do this,'" Brinn recalled thinking.

A family member urged them not to turn away blessings.

Reality essentially told them the same thing.

"We had kids covered in soot and no shampoo, no soap," she said.

They'd been alerted that day and raced back from the campground where they were spending the Labor Day weekend. They spent the day in their swimming suits cleaning up the charred remnants of their lives.

It was the simple things and the big things both that made a difference.

After the initial shock and bewilderment, the family was mired in paperwork and insurance claims.

"I'd see a box of Kleenex dropped off and it would make a difference," Brinn said. "It was a humbling experience."

The fire claimed the family dog Darcie.

As the Deerwood Loop home is rebuilt, now come the massive thanks. Excitement is starting to push the fear aside.

"We are thankful that our family, our child care children, and our neighbors were all safe," Brinn said. "The Park Rapids Fire Department, Park Rapids Police Department, and the state fire marshal did an amazing job of handling the entire situation.

"The men who were saving our children's scrapbooks, my wedding gown, Jason's favorite gun... well, what can we say? Thank you doesn't quite seem to fit."

The family was able to salvage many mementos and sentimental items, which cushioned the shock they felt in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Brinn said they appreciate the items they were able to save all that much more, thanks to the diligence of family and friends who helped in the salvage operation.

Daughters Johnna and Brielle lost many of their possessions, clothes and toys when their bedrooms were gutted by fire. They had to start school two days later.

The family was touched that even strangers reached out to them in the aftermath of the fire. They learned to embrace the help and the people who offered it.

Finding new quarters was tricky since Brinn wanted to re-open her daycare.

Her grandparents offered their home, which Brinn's grandmother had used for home daycare for 38 years. It could be easily licensed again, was the rationale.

Her grandparents moved in with Brinn's parents in Osage. Brinn's Building Blocks was up and running two weeks after the fire.

"Each blessing came in its own way, supplies, cash, meals, prayers; we felt so many generous blessings surround us and continue to do so," she said. "If I tried to say thank you to each caring individual who gifted us with a prayer, encouraging word, gift, or donation, I'd surely fail miserably."

Because of the support and help, Jason was able to return to work at John's Body Shop in Park Rapids.

Working helped the family return to a semblance of normalcy even amid the chaos, Brinn said, and maintain the mortgage on the house.

The cause of the fire was determined to be the dishwasher, she said. "It was not left running; in fact it had not been used for at least 72 hours prior to the fire. It began with the outlet and the dishwasher plug."

Today they watch as the new structure goes up, excited by each board that marks progress,

Brielle and Johnna race through the unfinished basement with Jason keeping a close eye on them.

"It's like a jungle gym down there," he laughed. He turns serious.

"I'll be glad when it's all over."

The house will be done sometime next year and has a special lower level area and entry for the daycare.

Women of Calvary Lutheran Church are holding a fundraiser for the family Nov. 21 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with a lunch, silent auction and bake sale.

"We truly know the joy of living in a small community," Brinn said. "We have felt the prayers, were encouraged by the smiles, the hugs, and true empathy."

The family wants the community to know "how touched, how blessed, how truly, humbly thankful we are."

Sarah Smith

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

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