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House fire leaves families homeless on Christmas Day

WORTHINGTON -- An early morning fire has left 10 people from two apartments homeless on Christmas Day in Worthington. A fire was discovered in an apartment attached to the former Video Lupita store at the intersection of Sherwood Street and East ...

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Water sprayed from the Worthington Fire Department's aerial truck douses hot spots from an early morning fire that destroyed a house at the intersection of Sherwood Street and East Avenue in Worthington. The two-story house contained two apartments, and was home to approximately 10 people, all of whom made it out safely. (Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - An early morning fire has left 10 people from two apartments homeless on Christmas Day in Worthington.

A fire was discovered in an apartment attached to the former Video Lupita store at the intersection of Sherwood Street and East Avenue shortly after 3 a.m. today. The Worthington Fire Department was paged to the scene at 3:15 a.m. with information that the building was fully engulfed.

Worthington Fire Chief Rick von Holdt said there was a lot of smoke and flames coming from the structure when firefighters arrived.

“We did not go into the building at all for the fact of structure collapse,” he said. “After about an hour of fighting the fire, the roof of the second story collapsed.”

As of 9 a.m., firefighters were still on the scene to knock out hot spots that continued to flare.

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“The residents there lost everything,” von Holdt said, noting that the American Red Cross was on scene assisting 10 individuals displaced by the fire.

von Holdt said he suspects a space heater of some sort caused the fire, which started on the first floor of the two-story house.

“With the age of the building and the wind, it didn’t take long to spread through,” he said. “It looked like it broke out one of the storefront windows and did quite a bit of damage to a pick-up that was parked there.”

Fire crews eventually were able to move the truck away from the building.

The fire department’s aerial truck was used to get at the blaze.

“With the age of the structure and lathe and plaster (construction), you can’t really get at the fire until they go through the roof,” von Holdt said.

Jeanette Valdez said her friend, Zuleima Figueroa, resided in one of the apartments with her boyfriend and three children, daughters aged 11 and 17, and a son, 22. They also had another person staying in the apartment temporarily while searching for a place to rent. Figueroa and her family moved here from Puerto Rico a couple of months ago. They lost everything in the blaze, including a puppy.

Valdez has created a GoFundMe page for the family at gofundme.com/nunez-family-house-fire. She said both families will be staying in a local motel for this evening, but it is unknown where they will go after that.

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“It’s a tough situation for those involved,” added von Holdt.


Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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