Saturday fire destroys rural Albion home

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Neil Johnson
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

— A rural Edgerton man and his son were returning from picking up a pizza Saturday night when they discovered their house was on fire.

According to family members, Henry Bratland Jr. and his son Kyle smelled smoke as they returned to their two-story farmhouse at 1460 County A in the town of Albion. When they opened the door, a back draft of air caused flames to shoot out the door, singing the hair on their faces.

Then the windows exploded. They called 911 on a cell phone.

Rita Bratland, who is the mother of Henry Bratland Jr., said firefighters showed up to the scene fast, but it was too late. The house was an inferno.

Even the detached garage across the yard was beginning to melt, Rita Bratland said. By the time she showed up, it was clear the house would burn down.

"It just went up so fast. It just … zoom, it was gone. Everything was just gone," she told The Gazette on Monday.

Edgerton Fire Chief Brian Demrow said fire investigators still were trying to learn what caused the blaze, which started at around 9 p.m. Saturday at Bratland's two-story renovated farm home.

He said it's not being considered a suspicious fire, and no one was injured.

Rita Bratland, whose husband, Henry Bratland Sr., is listed as the house's owner, said the family believes that an electrical problem in the house might have sparked the fire.

Demrow said the damage to the upper floors destroyed and collapsed the house, even as firefighters were battling the blaze. He said the damage was so severe to most of the house that it's unclear whether firefighters will ever determine the cause.

Demrow said he didn't have a damage estimate, but he said the house was completely destroyed. It took 30,000 gallons of water to knock down the blaze.

Rita Bratland said her son, her grandson, and her granddaughter, who resides with another parent part of the time, are now displaced, but they're staying at her and Henry Bratland Sr.'s house in rural Edgerton.

It's the second fire in less than a week that's displaced families in the Edgerton area. Early Friday, a family of 13 was displaced when their house at 211 Albion St. burned, causing serious damage.

It's still not clear if that house can be saved.

Rita Bratland said her family was making arrangements for temporary housing for her son and grandchildren. They've lost everything, including a Labrador retriever that was inside the house and was killed in the fire, she said.

"They had coats and boots on and a cell phone. That's all they have left now," she said.

Rita Bratland said the family already was getting donations of clothing, gift cards and money. She said the most overwhelming thing was all the phone calls from people wanting to help.

"You never picture this kind of thing happening. It's something new. So I got two phones—one's in one hand, one's in the other. It rings and rings, and we're glad for everyone that calls," she said.

Last updated: 8:14 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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