Rural Dayton home destroyed in ‘suspicious’ blaze

Fire hits the same place a second time

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Fire crews from Dayton, Harcourt, Gowrie, Stratford and Lehigh spray water on a house burning at 3459 Oak Ave. The home was total loss. Crews had previously fought a fire there on April 18 that left the Shawna Hart family homeless. Hart lost almost all of her family’s possessions in the blaze Wednesday.

DAYTON — A rural Dayton family left homeless after an April 18 house fire at 3459 Oak Ave. lost everything they still owned that was still inside the dwelling when it was destroyed in a Wednesday morning fire.

Shawna Hart and her husband, Tad Hart, lived in the old farmhouse with their six children.

Wednesday morning found her watching firefighters attempt to put out the fire and talking to a friend on her phone with her voice breaking.

“I wonder where my cats are,” she said. “The wood chest that was in the living room was full of baby stuff from them growing up. Stuff they made me at school.”

Hart was supposed to have met with her insurance representative Wednesday afternoon to access the home and remove items.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen A pair of Stratford firefighters work on putting out a house fire at 3459 Oak Ave. near Dayton Wednesday morning. Several departments were called to the scene to assist the Dayton Fire Department.

“The insurance was going to let us take stuff we needed,” she said. “There’s nothing left. Everything is gone.”

The fire broke out shortly after an apparent burglary at the site.

“The garage door is kicked in,” she said. “Steve had seen a truck out here this morning.”

The property is owned by Steve Grottenberg. He said he saw a white or silver extended cab pickup truck on the site from his nearby farm. He said he saw smoke about 20 minutes after the truck left, then called 911.

“There’s no power and no LP to the home.” he said. “It was fine at 7 and by 7:20 it was burning.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen As the home burns in the background, Webster County Sheriff’s deputy Trevir Michehl photographs a garage door that had been broken into before the fire started.

Dayton Fire Chief Nick Dunbar called the fire “suspicious.”

“Everything was shut off since the last fire,” he said.

He’s contacted the state fire marshal’s office to help with the investigation.

“The fire marshal will be assisting with our investigation,” Dunbar said. “There’s not going to be much to work with.”

The burglary investigation is being handled by the Webster County Sheriff’s Department, he said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen After making the decision to let the home burn, a group of firefighters watch the structure burn.

Fire crews ended up having to give up on putting the house fire out. The hard decision to let it burn was not made lightly.

Stratford Fire Chief Dan Ostrem made the call.

“We were having trouble keeping up with the water supply,” he said. “We were short of help. We accessed it and realized there was no stopping the fire. To save resources, the decision was made with the owner’s consent.”

The Hart family will continue to stay at the Best Western Starlite Village Inn & Suites. She said members of the community have come forward to help the family.

“We’ve gotten a lot of children’s clothing,” she said.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen A metal bed frame is visible through what was a window Saturday morning at the scene of a house fire near Dayton at 3459 Oak Ave.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Flames quickly consumed the home after fire fighters - along with the property owner - made the decision to let the house burn.