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Archie Ingersoll, Published February 26 2014

Fire destroys house of Arthur fire chief's grandmother

ARTHUR, N.D. – When Fire Chief Casey Zieske heard there were flames and smoke at 60 3rd St. on Tuesday afternoon, he immediately recognized the address.

How could he not? It was his grandmother’s house, a two-story home with wood siding where she had lived since before he was born.

“It is a tough call to get,” said Zieske, 27.

His grandmother was not home at the time, but her three dogs were. Zieske’s father, who’s also a volunteer firefighter, had gone to let them out shortly before 1 p.m. when he discovered the house was full of smoke. The cause of the fire remains under investigation, the chief said.

The call was unsettlingly similar to one the Arthur Volunteer Fire Department received Thanksgiving Day 2012 when flames mostly destroyed the house of Zieske’s aunt, which sat just a block from his grandma’s house. No one was hurt in that blaze, which appeared to have started in the basement in or around the dryer.

“The last two house fires we’ve had over the last six years have been in the family,” Zieske said.

On Tuesday, fire crews reached the house of Zieske’s grandmother within about five minutes of getting the initial call. When they arrived, there wasn’t much they could do to save the structure.

“It was gone before we got there,” the chief said. “It was a total loss.”

Firefighters spent 10 hours at the scene, extinguishing the blaze in frigid temperatures. On Wednesday morning, Arthur volunteers were still dealing with several frozen hoses.

Zieske said his grandmother’s house, which had been in his family for generations, was stocked with memories.

“It would be her grandparents’ house, which was an original farm in Arthur,” he said. “The house was probably over 100 years old.”

The dogs rescued from the home were taken to the Casselton Veterinary Clinic to be treated for smoke inhalation. By Wednesday afternoon, two of them, both Shih Tzus, had died, but the third, a cockapoo, was still alive, Zieske said.

His grandmother, Bonnie Zieske, who’s in her mid-60s, is staying with family in Arthur, a Cass County town with 340 residents.

“She’s shaken up a little bit, but, I mean, we’ll get through it,” her grandson said. “Everyone’s tough.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Archie Ingersoll at (701) 451-5734