SHELDON—A family of six has been forced to find a new place to live after a basement fire late Thursday afternoon, July 21, made their Sheldon house uninhabitable.
No one was home when the fire started as Kaleb Van Ginkel was at his job at a hog barn while his wife, Katie, and their four children were returning from camping.
As Katie drove toward their house at 821 Fourth St., she could see smoke and then flames coming out of the basement bedroom window.
“They think it started in the basement, possibly a light fixture or something is what they are thinking as of yet,” Kaleb said. “Maybe a shortage or something along those lines. They said the hottest spot they found in the basement was next to one of the light fixtures in the basement.”
The Sheldon Fire Co. was called at about 5 p.m., and on arrival, the firefighters found smoke coming out of the basement windows and the attic vent.
They made their way to the basement and found a small fire in the closet and extinguished the blaze, according to Sheldon Fire Co. first assistant chief Brad Hindt.
Firefighters then started to ventilate the house.
There was heavy fire damage to the basement bedroom closet, the bedroom and a utility room.
Two of the children sleep in the basement bedroom.
“I was just grateful when she called to tell me about it that she said that she and the boys had not gotten in the house — by the grace of God that she and the boys were elsewhere,” Kaleb said.
There were no injuries reported from the fire.
While the blaze was contained to the basement, there was heavy smoke damage to the whole house.
“We went in after the fire department got finished. Even upstairs, even though the flames didn’t get to the upstairs, everything is covered in black soot from the smoke,” Kaleb said.
The house was built in 1949. Gene and Diane Van Ginkel, Kaleb’s parents, bought the property in 2000.
Kaleb, Katie and their four sons have been renting the house from his parents for about three years.
The family of six lost almost everything in the basement fire. The house is inhabitable due to the fire and smoke damage.
“Between the fire and the smoke, probably just about everything we had in the house is probably not going to be salvageable,” Kaleb said.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the Van Ginkel family during the tragedy, and the link can be found at https://bit.ly/3ozaWWU.
Katie’s parents have a fifth-wheel camper the family can use, which they were using during their camping trip.
“Her mom said that shouldn’t be a problem if we use that a little bit longer,” Kaleb said.
Two dozen firefighters responded to the scene and used 1,500 gallons of water.
The Sheldon Fire Co. was assisted on the scene by the Sheldon Police Department, the Sheldon Community Ambulance Team, the O’Brien County Emergency Management Agency, the city water department and MidAmerican Energy.
The Sheldon Fire Co. was back out to the property at about 9 p.m. that same day for possible smoke coming from the roof, but the fire had not restarted.