Kingfield couple is touched by fire, then support

A big "thank you" for neighbors’ help and contributions

In the midst of tragedy, Ann Jensen said her Kingfield neighbors reached out to her family, turning a time of difficulty into a time of gratitude.

Ann and Jon Jensen’s home, which they shared with their granddaughter on the 4100 block of Blaisdell Ave., caught fire from an old electrical outlet July 21 while they were out of town.

"The inspector said sometimes that happens, it malfunctions," she said.

Neighbor Chris DeParde said he noticed smoke coming out of the Jensen’s chimney at around 9 a.m. Sunday. "It didn’t look right," he said.

He called the fire department immediately and they were at the scene in less than two minutes, he said. DeParde also tried to break down the back door to rescue the Jensen’s 12-year-old cat, "Twinkie." However, the fire’s heat and smoke was too great, and he had to withdraw.

The cat belonged to the Jensen’s 12 year-old granddaughter and, once found, resuscitation efforts by firefighters were unsuccessful. "That was hard," said Ann Jensen.

Another neighbor, Nancy Schimke, watched from the corner with DeParde as the firemen went to work. "It was really a helpless feeling," she said.

Ann Jensen said the neighbors made the whole ordeal much easier to handle by bringing food, helping clean out the house, offering their homes for storage or bathroom use and taking their smoke-ridden clothes to a Laundromat.

"We were overwhelmed by the care and generosity of the neighbors," Jensen said, "They shared their cats for our granddaughter to snuggle with and they gave lots of hugs when the whole thing got to be too much."

The Kingfield neighbors also opened their pocket books. DeParde said residents of the 4000 and 4100 block of Blaisdell collected $1,000 for a Target gift certificate for the Jensens, to pay for incidental household items not covered by insurance.

Schimke, who collected the money, said she was touched by so many donations. "So many people contributed what they could," she said.

Jensen said she was very grateful for the neighbors’ help: "We’ve been able to buy things we needed to replace immediately."

The smoke and fire damaged most of the house, but Jensen said she and her husband plan to fix it up and move back to the neighborhood in approximately six to nine months, when their granddaughter will get a new cat. Until then the family is living in an apartment in Linden Hills.