Mark and Edythe Schultz were celebrating Thanksgiving with family in Omaha when it happened.
They got a call from the Dodge County Sheriff’s Department. The Fremont area couple rushed back home.
Their house was on fire.
“We could see the flames coming over the top of the house,” she said.
Fremont Rural Assistant Fire Chief Carl Nielsen said the call came in shortly after 9 p.m. Thursday regarding the home west of Arlington.
“When we arrived, it was a fully involved structure fire,” Nielsen said. “It was a total loss.”
About 25 firefighters went to the scene. Fremont Rural and other departments responded.
“At the time the call came in, we did not know if anybody was inside or not; there were a few cars in the driveway so we had Fremont Fire respond with an ambulance and we also had Arlington (volunteer) respond with manpower,” Nielsen said. “We had deputies at the scene run the (license) plates of the vehicles in the driveway and then they made contact with the family.”
Firefighters learned nobody was home at the time of the fire.
Nielsen said it took firefighters about an hour to get the blaze under control, adding that it was a difficult fire to extinguish.
Firefighters were at the scene until shortly after 1 a.m. The fire later rekindled and they had to return just before 6 a.m. and stayed until 10 a.m. Friday.
No injuries to humans were reported.
“They said there were cats, but I don’t know if the cats got out,” Nielsen said. “When dispatch got a hold of them (the Schultzes) they said there were some cats on the back porch — but the back porch was gone at that time.”
Edythe Schultz told the Tribune that she and her husband had rescued a litter of four kittens from a feral cat.
“We were at the point where we were calling the vet about shots (for the kittens),” she said.
The 5-month-old kittens included one that was black named Coal; Spitz — a white kitten with a dark gray tail and spots on its head; Junior — a long-haired white and gray kitten, who looked like his mom; and Tiger — a tiger-striped gray kitten.
“We did not find any remains from the cats, but we haven’t seen them yet. We’re hopeful that they’re somewhere, but we don’t know that,” she said.
As for the couple, Schultz said the Red Cross has provided some help. The couple is staying at the Holiday Inn in Fremont. Other people have offered to help.
And despite the loss of keepsakes and other items, the Schultzes are grateful they are safe.
“Everybody is healthy and fine,” she said. “We just have to keep trying to move forward. I keep telling myself, ‘It was just stuff.’”
They’re waiting to talk to an insurance adjuster.
“Thanksgiving will have additional memories from now on — not necessarily good ones, but they’ll be there,” she added.
Nielsen also noted the difficulty of losing a home at this time of year.
“It’s a bad deal on Thanksgiving,” Nielsen said. “Anytime, it’s a bad deal to lose your home, but especially during the holidays is tough.”