Early in the morning hours of January 2, Pepper and Chris Moen awoke to flames beginning to consume the home they had lived in for less than two years.
By Melissa Anderson
Pepper was the first to awaken, either to the sound of their dog, Nova, barking or the smell of smoke that had begun to drift through the house. When she entered her living room, she discovered that part of the couch was on fire.
“I shook my husband and was like “Babe! Babe! FIRE!!!” He jumped out of bed, ran to the kitchen, and our first reaction was to try put it out with water,” Moen said.
The Moens opened the front door when the smoke took over, forcing them to leave their home in below zero temperatures.
“We had to go outside and then we couldn’t go back in,” Moen recalled, “We wanted our phones, my wedding ring and the keys to the truck to try and get out.”
None of those all important items could be retrieved as, once the Moens left the house with Nova in tow, it was impossible to go back inside. With the rush of fresh air, the house quickly became consumed with the fire and smoke.
“Chris was only in boxers. I was in capris and a t-shirt. We couldn’t even grab socks, shoes or jackets,” Moen said.
The Moens were standing in fresh snow barefoot and unprotected from the elements. They ran through the mounds of snow to get to their shop where two jackets were found to provide some warmth. They were forced to stand on rags to protect their feet from the bitterly cold cement floor. Without a means to call for help, the Moens were forced to watch their home and all their possessions burn.
“Chris had a diesel heater in there so we started that and stood there watching our windows blow out, our two trucks melt away and our house collapse,” Moen recalled.
Luckily, after about 30 minutes of watching the devastating scene, Elizabeth Haraseth, a friend of the Moens who was coming home from Grand Forks, saw the flames from the burning home and drove to the Moens yard. Haraseth called 911 and helped the Moens get warm.
“Who knows how long we would have been standing there almost naked or how long the heat would have lasted,” Moen said, ”We then went into town to get jackets and clothes.”
When the Moens returned to their yard, the house was burnt to the ground and all their possessions had been lost to the flames. The Moens believe that the fire was a result of an electrical short in the motor on the recliner section of the couch.
“Our hearts just broke when we saw everything was gone and, of course, we were mad at ourselves for not reacting the right way,” Moen said.
Now, the couple is trying to cope with the overwhelming loss. For Pepper, the loss is even harder as this is the second time she has lost all of her belongings.
“It’s really hard. When I was 17, I lost everything in the flood of 1997,” Moen stated, “Now, I’m a mom with lots of precious memories and belongings.”
Moen is also a small business owner, and, as a result of the blaze, has lost all of her machines, computers, printers and all of her images.
“We have only lived there for a year and half, and everything we have built together is gone,” Moen said.
Thankfully, the Moen’s children do not live with them full-time and were not at the home when the fire took place, sparing them from the horrendous sight of watching their possessions burn.
“We are grateful they did not have to go through this nor did they lose anything other than stuffed animals, beds, decorations and what not,” Moen said.
Right now, the Moens are in need of just about everything. They did not have homeowners insurance, and only one of their vehicles had full coverage. While they recover from the shock of losing everything and try to find a sense of normalcy, the Moens are staying with a friend.
“I’m trying to get back to work, but at this time, of course, we don’t have any vehicles or clothes to wear,” Moen said, “The community is very strong and supportive and donations of things are flying in for us.”
At this point, the Moens are unsure what to do as far as rebuilding or relocating.
“But obviously after this tremendous amount of support, we feel like we definitely belong around here,” Moen shared.
The Moens hope that there is one small silver lining that can be taken away from this horrible experience. They hope that others can learn from this event about the importance of having a plan in place in case of emergency and knowing what to take, if possible.
“My advice would be grab phones, wallets, keys, jacket, etc. and get the hell out. Don’t waste any time,” Moen stated.
There is a Go Fund Me account under Chris and Pepper Moen that was created within hours of the loss by one of Pepper’s closest friends to assist the couple in raising much needed funds. The goal was set at $15,000 and at time of print, the account had raised over $5,000 from 73 donations in just three days. Many of those donations are $50 to $100.
There will also be a fundraiser for the Moens in Nekoma on January 13 that was arranged by Janet Schill. Items for donation can be brought to Pain Reliever in Nekoma, the Double Deuce in Edmore, or Beer:30 in Edmore.