West Street fire damaged all three floors of Anderson’s home

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  When the smoke alarm started going off late in the afternoon on June 7, the sound did not really register with Kim Anderson.

“The smoke alarm goes off when the girls burn a pizza or something like that,” Anderson said.

But as the alarm continued to sound off, Anderson remembered that her daughters were not home that afternoon.

“I went to investigate, and the fire (that started in the basement) was already starting to come upstairs,” she said.

Three fire departments — Colfax, Elk Mound and Menomonie — responded to the fire at Anderson’s home at 505 West Street in Colfax.

Firefighters were on the scene for several hours.

The fire started with a malfunction in an electrical panel.

The front part of Anderson’s home is about a hundred years old, which contributed to helping the fire spread rapidly.

“The house was built by Myrtle Gunderson. They found straw in the walls for insulation. That’s why the fire went up into the walls so fast. They said the house was 80 to 100 years old,” Anderson said.

All three floors of the house suffered fire, smoke and water damage.

“What the fire didn’t get, the smoke and water did,” Anderson said.

The week of July 15, crew members from Servpro were working to remove insulation from the attic of Anderson’s home.

“The whole house will have to be gutted and rebuilt,” she said.

Anderson said she has been told that the work on her house will take up to six months.

“Delanie is going off to school August 28 to Green Bay for medical engineering. She won’t even know the house when she comes back for Thanksgiving. She had her (high school) graduation party at the fairgrounds on Sunday, and the fire was (the following) Friday,” Anderson said.

Anderson has received a permit from the Village of Colfax to temporarily install a mobile home next to her house so that she has somewhere to live while her house is being rebuilt.

Inside Anderson’s home, the floor in the front room is completely gone, and evidence of fire, smoke and water damage is everywhere — even in the air that still carries a strong smell of smoke six weeks after the fire.

For the past 25 years, Anderson has worked as a costume designer for a number of theaters, including the Mabel Tainter in Menomonie. The basement of her home contained a variety of costumes.

“That was my work room down there. And now it’s all gone. All the costumes. Even my sewing machines,” Anderson said.

“For me to do a play now, it would be thousands of dollars in start-up costs,” Anderson noted.

Anderson also is mourning the loss of her daughter’s cat.

“I threw the kitty carrier out on the porch and went back to get him. He was down there, and I couldn’t get him out,” Anderson said.

“The cat — and then losing all of the costumes and all of that time. I think that’s the worst,” she said.

Even all of Anderson’s family photos were destroyed.

When asked if she had a photograph of herself and her daughters that the newspaper could use, the only picture Anderson had was of her three girls taken at Easter in 2005.

“I wish I did have other photos, but this is all that’s left,” she said.