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Family trying to pick up pieces after fire

8/7/2012

By RANDY GONZALES

rgonzales@dailynews.net

Henry and Michelle Wiesner spoke softly as they slowly walked through what remained of their home Monday morning. The burnt smell still hung in the air.

It had been 17 days since their house at 105 E. 15th caught on fire, burning almost everything inside. It had been 17 days since their world turned upside down.

"I think it's just now hitting, since we're moving into a different place," Michelle Wiesner said. "It's just hard not to have anything."

The couple is staying with family in town. Down the road, they will look for a new house. Finding a new home will be more difficult.

The Wiesners lived there for 24 of their 32 years of marriage. They raised their daughter there. They were babysitters for their grandchildren there.

"It's just tough," Henry Wiesner said, his voice starting to crack. "I'm starting to accept what happened, finally."

The evening of July 20 was supposed to be filled with laughter and fun. The couple's granddaughters were entered in the children's cooking category at Blues, Barbecue and Bargains at the park at the south end of town. Michelle arrived there first, and Henry left the house at approximately 6:30 p.m.

At approximately 7 p.m., Michelle received an urgent text message: Their house was on fire.

"I called 911; she said it was our house," Michelle said. "That's all she wrote."

The Wiesners hurried back to their house, which already had flames shooting through the roof and thick, black smoke billowing into the clear, blue sky.

"It was all in smoke, the fire," Michelle said.

The Wiesners are left wondering what caused the fire to start. The state fire marshal's office said the cause of the fire is unknown. Making matters worse, the house wasn't insured.

"We had just got quotes," Michelle said. "We were just going through quotes."

Now, as the Wiesners try to pick up the pieces of their lives, they also will be picking up the pieces of what's left of their house. Henry, a general contractor for 36 years, is used to building things, not tearing them down.

But that's what he will be doing the next three Saturdays, working to salvage items in the house, then demolish it and clean the property. The couple needs help doing it.

"That would be wonderful," Michelle said of any assistance from volunteers. "All the manpower we can get would be terrific."

This Saturday, the plan is to start removing items from the house. On Aug. 18, not much help is needed, Henry said.

That day, he will bring in heavy equipment to tear down the structure. On Aug. 25, the property will have final cleanup in preparation to eventually sell the lot. Work will start at 8 a.m. each Saturday.

The couple's daughter, Kelly Cunningham, has set up a Facebook page where volunteers can send a message that they can help out. The page is called Wiesner Relieffund. As well, there will be a benefit garage sale at The Mall, 2918 Vine, on Aug. 19. A disaster relief fund has been set up at First National Bank in Hays. Call (785) 628-2400 and ask for Angie.

The couple, which used to own an antique store in Ellis, had thousands of dollars worth of antiques in the house.

"It was the contents, this was our life, 24 years," Michelle said. "It's our whole life, right here. Henry built it from the ground up."