Fire destroys home south of Tonganoxie
As firefighters doused her home with water, all Katie Hauk could do was watch. While her eyes overflowed with tears and her home went up in smoke, friends and neighbors flocked to Hauk, offering comfort.
However, there was little anyone could do to help. Within 30 minutes after the blaze began last Wednesday afternoon, Hauks home and everything in it was gone.
But her children were safe.
The fire started when the Hauks 4-year-old son, Charles, found a cigarette lighter and took it into the bedroom where fireworks were stored beneath a bed.
I dont think he actually meant to light the fireworks, she said. I think he lit the lighter and the sack that the fireworks were in caught on fire.
Katie and Mel Hauk had lived in a doublewide mobile home at Paradise Trailer Park, which is two miles south of Tonganoxie on U.S. Highway 24-40, for about five years.
Katie Hauk said she had been fire-conscious since her children, Gage, 10, and Charles, 4, were born.
I never kept matches in the house and I only had one cigarette lighter and I always kept that in my purse, she said.
But at about 3:30 last Wednesday afternoon, shortly after Gage got off the school bus and Katie went to unlock the door and talk to her son about his day at school, her younger son called her.
I said not now, were talking. But then he said, Hurry Mom X theres a fire in your bedroom, Hauk said. Just then the fireworks started going off and I just told the kids to run outside X I didnt know what was in there X what kind of fireworks they were.
Neighbors, too, heard the sound from the fire. Kenny Stauch, who lives next door to the east, tried to help.
I let my dog outside and noticed smoke coming out of their bathroom window, Stauch said. I asked if she needed some help.
Stauch took a fire extinguisher next door.
I kicked the door open and smoke rolled out, he said. I grabbed a pair of jeans and put them over my face, but then I got a whiff of the smoke and heard popping sounds coming from inside the house and I backed out. I knew she and the kids were out of the house and her husband wasnt home, so nobody was in there.
About that time, Hauk said, neighbors called 911 to report the fire. And Hauk ran next door to check on Noah Fugate, a child who she knew was home alone. She wanted to make sure he was outside in case the fire spread.
Across the street, Kyler Madeira was mowing the yard for his mother, Angela Freeman.
I heard a bunch of noise and looked over and saw the windows had broken and smoke was coming out, he said.
Fire departments from Ton-ganoxie Township, Tongan-oxie City, Stranger Township and Reno Township responded.
According to the Leaven-worth County Sheriffs Depart-ment, losses were estimated at $45,000.
Although saddened by the loss of her home, Hauk said she and her husband, Mel, were glad that the children were safe and that Charles chose to tell his mother about the fire.
Im lucky he told me about the fire when he did, instead of trying to hide it, she said. The smoke alarm hadnt even started going off then.
For now, Katie Hauk said, she and her husband have rented a furnished duplex in Basehor for one month and she is driving their son, Gage, to Tonganoxie for school. Hauk said they plan to return to the Tonganoxie area and they are exploring housing options.