The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 30, 2014

Update: Fire destroys family's N. Mankato home (video)

By Dan Linehan
The Mankato Free Press

NORTH MANKATO —   Jessica Anderson, 23 weeks pregnant with her fifth child and advised by her doctor to stay home from work, was doing just that when she noticed an outlet spark in her bedroom Thursday morning.

She went to the breaker to cut off power. But when she returned, fire was climbing up the wall.

Barefoot and with one of the family’s two cats on her heels, she ran with her 3-year-old daughter to a neighbor’s house to call 911.

A neighbor, Mike Larson, ran in as she left and used his fire extinguisher on the bedroom wall. But it didn’t work, and he was driven out of the mobile home by thick smoke.

Anderson quickly returned to save a goldfish — it’s a living thing, she said, and she wanted to save it if she could — but she couldn’t find the second cat, who was likely hiding.

When firefighters arrived at about 9:30 a.m. at Avalon mobile home park, the residence at 2018 Lancelot Lane and a detached garage were fully engulfed, North Mankato Fire Chief Tim Pohlman said.

At first, firefighters prepared to fight the fire from inside but were pushed back and switched to a defensive strategy aimed to keep the fire from spreading.

The cold and blowing snow made for difficult conditions, and Pohlman said the hoses had to be kept running to prevent freezing. By noon, the fire was largely out and firefighters were extinguishing flare-ups. A cause hasn’t been determined, though the assumption is that it’s electrical.

Because North Mankato’s department is staffed with volunteers, many of whom work outside of town, they asked for assistance from Mankato.

Jessica Anderson’s husband, Tim, heard the news at the hospital, where he was getting his every-other-week infusion to treat a rare disorder, called Fabry disease. The disorder is caused by a deficiency in an enzyme that breaks down fatty compounds, which go on to accumulate in major organs, damaging them.

It was a rare case of bad luck — only 5,000 or 10,000 people have the disease, he said — but he's seen more of it lately.

In September, he lost his job at McDonald’s, where he was an area supervisor and had worked for 22 years.

About six weeks later, his wife discovered she was pregnant. “We weren’t planning on a fifth child,” he said.

Then, just a few weeks ago, his wife suffered a complication in her pregnancy and rode in an ambulance to Rochester.

Two days ago, his washing machine broke.

“Luckily, we don’t have to replace that now,” he said.

Today, on Tim’s 39th birthday, they’ll meet with the Red Cross to see if the agency can help. For now, the Andersons are staying with family.