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Fire displaces Willmar family

WILLMAR -- Standing in bare feet across the street, a Willmar man watched as firefighters worked to smother smoke that was pouring out of his family's mobile home Thursday afternoon.

Briana Sanchez / TribuneWillmar firefighters pry the roof membrane off a mobile home to get at a fire that apparently started when a water heater leaked onto a circuit breaker. No one was injured, but the family will not be able to return to the home at Regency West mobile home park in Willmar.
Briana Sanchez / Tribune Willmar firefighters pry the roof membrane off a mobile home to get at a fire that apparently started when a water heater leaked onto a circuit breaker. No one was injured, but the family will not be able to return to the home at Regency West mobile home park in Willmar.

WILLMAR - Standing in bare feet across the street, a Willmar man watched as firefighters worked to smother smoke that was pouring out of his family's mobile home Thursday afternoon.

The young man, who goes only by the name Kanyaw, said that just a few minutes earlier he and his cousin returned home from work to find a hose from a water heater leaking hot water.

When they tried to fix the leak, he said flames erupted and they feared the water heater would explode.

"Suddenly there was just a fire," he said. "We were very scared and ran out right away."

The 911 call came around 1:47 p.m. Thursday to the home in the Regency West mobile home park, just off Kandiyohi County Road 5 on the west side of Willmar.

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Firefighters from Willmar were at the scene for about two hours.

Fire Chief Frank Hanson said it appears that water from an electric water heater leaked onto a circuit breaker which created an electrical short that started the fire.

Firefighters had to break windows and pry the siding and roof membrane off in one area to get at the fire. Acrid, black smoke billowed out of the structure.

Hanson said damage to the home was extensive and the family will not be able to return.

Kanyaw said he and four family members, including his parents, little brother and cousin, moved into the home about eight months ago from St. Paul.

The family is staying temporarily with friends.

Kanyaw worried that the family's possessions were destroyed.

"We just ran out without thinking about grabbing stuff that we needed," he said."I think everything is gone. My wallet and my ID. Everything."

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He said they weren't thinking about possessions when they escaped. "We just think about life and ran out."

Hanson said items in the home were either damaged by smoke or fire. He said the Fire Department's chaplain and the Salvation Army are assisting the family.

The Willmar Fire Department had backup support from the Pennock and Kandiyohi fire departments and Willmar Ambulance.

Related Topics: FIRES
Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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