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Family of 11 is homeless after fire at their rural residence

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HANLEY FALLS -- A family of 11 is without a home and their possessions after fire raged through their rural farmhouse around 2:39 a.m. Wednesday west of Hanley Falls.

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Chai Vue, his wife Shoua Kong, a grandmother and eight children, ages infant to 14, safely fled the fire. Only a pile of debris in the basement foundation of the home remains, according to Richard Hagen, Hanley Falls volunteer firefighter and mayor.

He said firefighters arrived to find the attached garage of the home engulfed in flames. Firefighters believe the fire moved into the ceiling of the kitchen area and then spread vertically through the walls of the older home.

Firefighters initially thought they may have gained the upper hand with the blaze, but had to hastily exit the interior of the home as fire moving through the interior of the walls took hold and approached a flash point, Hagen said.

The home is located four miles west and one mile north of Hanley Falls, and firefighters had to rely on tankers for water.

Volunteers from the Cottonwood, Clarkfield and Wood Lake fire departments assisted.

The family is currently being assisted by the Red Cross in Marshall, which is helping them obtain clothing and a place to stay, according to Sheriff Bill Flaten of Yellow Medicine County. The family's school-age children attend the Yellow Medicine East Schools. A school social worker was with the family on Thursday.

The sheriff said the family does not have relatives in the area, but the Red Cross is hoping to find housing so that the children can return to the YME Schools and familiar classmates and friends.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but is believed to be accidental. It appears to have started in the garage or a portion of the home nearest it. Sheriff Flaten said the fire was apparently discovered by Chai Vue shortly after he returned home from work. He smelled smoke and alerted other family members and helped them evacuate safely.

The family did not have insurance. The Red Cross has established a fund to assist the family. Donations in the form of a check or money order with a notation "Hanley Falls Fire Victims'' should be sent to: American Red Cross, 301 Second Street South, Marshall, MN 56258. Cash donations are the greatest need.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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