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Published June 25 2012

Rural Moorhead family displaced by fire; home not insured (with video interview)

OAKPORT TOWNSHIP, Minn. – A rural Moorhead couple with no homeowner’s insurance were trying to figure out their next move Monday after a morning fire, apparently sparked by a coffee maker, totaled their house, attached garage and trailer.

Lynn Maier, 66, and her husband, Robert, 67, said he got up early, put water in the coffee maker and turned it on before going outside to work with their horse, Toby.

A short time later, their daughter, Jamie Maier, 35, who lives in Moorhead but stays at the farmstead at 6701 Broadway St. N.W. on weekends, smelled smoke and woke up her mother.

“She smelled smoke, and I went downstairs and the coffee pot was on fire,” Lynn Maier said. “And I went to find something, a wet towel or something, and by time I ran out to find water – because we were having our well worked on – it was already too late. The stove was burning. And then I stood there and looked, and it went right to the ceiling. And then I knew, bail out. That was it.

“I went back up the stairs to get our phones and our purses, and we’ve been outside ever since,” she said.

Jamie Maier called 911 at 6:02 a.m. When the Dilworth Area Fire Department arrived, flames were shooting from the roof and west side of the house, Fire Chief Kurt Kennedy said.

The two-story, wood-sided house went up quickly, and the cluttered farmyard made it more difficult for crews to reach the fire with hoses, Kennedy said.

Two hours after the fire started, crews continued to dump water on it, hoping there would be something left inside to salvage. The Maiers, who lived in the house for nearly 18 years, hadn’t even been back inside when the fire flared up again in the garage about 1:30 p.m. Firefighters returned and quickly knocked down the flames.

Jamie Maier said that from the outside, it was clear the house and belongings were “a total loss.”

“The worst part is the pictures,” Lynn Maier said, adding that among them was an oval-framed portrait of her grandmother and her grandmother’s twin brother when they were children.

“That, I cherished,” she said, adding she also lost a picture her grandmother had painted as a child.

Robert Maier led the horse to safety, and no people or animals were hurt in the fire.

“That’s the main thing,” he said.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Salvation Army and the American Red Cross Minn-Kota Chapter also responded to the fire.

Lynn Maier said the Red Cross is paying for the couple to stay in a hotel for three days, “and that’s all we know. So it’ll be one day at a time, I guess.”

Jamie Maier said she lived with her parents until a year ago in the house, which had foundation issues from flooding in 1997 and 2009. She said a flood buyout trailer her parents moved onto the farmstead for her to stay in was unscathed by the fire and could become their temporary home, but it needs repairs.

In the meantime, they will probably stay at her brother’s duplex apartment in Fargo, she said.

Jamie Maier said her parents have a mortgage on the house, and they dropped their insurance about a year ago because they couldn’t afford it.

“It was either have insurance on the house or pay for Medicare,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528