Fire sends family on a long road home

On April 10, 2002, Judy Lamont stood in a neighbor’s yard on a rainy afternoon watching smoke billow from the family’s Maple Lake home. She cried when firefighters rescued the Lamont’s dog, Sidney, and placed the frightened pet in her arms.

And those were just the opening moments on a long road to get the Lamont family back home.

For the next month, the family of six lived in motels in Buffalo, wearing donated clothes and driving daughters, Alicia, Kristen, Deanna and Marisa, back and forth to school in Maple Lake.

Judy said during that time, she received a lot of support from her friends at the Heavenly Grounds Coffee Shop. “For that month, the coffee house was like a home base for me,” Judy said. “When I didn’t have to drive back to Buffalo, I could sit and visit, run my errands and do whatever I had to do. They even took calls for us there.”

Judy and her husband, Tim, were able to find a rental house in Maple Lake only to find that water can cause just as many problems as fire.   “We were there for the torrential rains,” Judy laughed, noting the details of getting water out of a basement that became a common theme for many residents in Maple Lake last summer.

But there was one big benefit.  “We were just excited to be back in town where our kids were comfortable,” Judy said.

However, Judy had to quit her job at Target when dealing with the insurance company and overseeing the reconstruction of the family’s home became a full-time job. “I spent my entire summer on paperwork,” she said.

It was determined that faulty wiring on a sump pump in the basement was the cause of the fire. And although insurance fully covered restoring the house, Judy estimated that they were reimbursed for only about half of the value of their personal items and furniture.

But on August 22, none of that mattered when work on the house was finished. “The furniture wasn’t there yet and we had no phone, but we camped out in the house that night,” Judy laughed. “It was just so nice to be home.”

And despite the hardships the family endured, Judy said she will never forget the quick response of the Maple Lake Fire Department and the Wright County Chapter of the Red Cross, and the generosity of local residents who contributed clothes, personal items and funds to get the family back on its feet.

“What impressed me about the fire department is how they persisted in seeing if they could find our pets,” Judy said. “They didn’t disregard the animals. They understood that they were an important part of the family.”

Although Sidney was found alive, the family cat was not. “The loss of C.J. was the hardest part to take,” Judy said. “That was Marisa’s kitty. So now we’ve got two cats and we buy every stuffed cat that looked like her kitty.”

Judy noted the support provided by staff and classmates of her children at Maple Lake Schools, and friends and neighbors who assisted in numerous ways.  “Kim Northenscold was instrumental in providing support and setting up an account at the bank,” Judy said. “She and I are still very good friends and we didn’t really know each other before the fire.  “There were a lot of people who were really helpful, basically helping us to stay on our feet.”

Judy said her children have adjusted well in the aftermath of the fire.  “They don’t get scared or have nightmares about it,” she said. “It’s not something that we dwell on, really. It was just a fluke thing and we’re glad that nobody got hurt.”

Judy and her four-year-old grandson, Derrick, were the only family members home at the time of last year’s fire and they share memories that no one else has.  “My grandson talks about it all the time,” Judy said. “He’ll say, ‘Remember that day of the fire, Grandma, when you took me across the street?’”

But the entire Lamont family shares the memory of how wonderful it was to finally come back home.