A large farm home just outside of Fennimore has been completely destroyed by fire following a blaze suspected to have been started by a wood stove
Cheryl and Cindy Waterman had just come inside from milking their dairy cows at the Waterman Family Farm in the morning hours of Thursday April 11. Exhausted from their chores the pair decided to rest after a long morning in the barn.
Shortly after the two women laid down in their beds, Cindy awoke to the sound of a frantic cat. Her senses were suddenly taken over by the smell of smoke.
“They had been sleeping when Cindy heard the cat going nuts,” Cheryl Waterman’s niece Angie Monroe shared. “She could smell the smoke right away. She ran into tell Auntie (Cheryl), and then ran out to get our uncle.”
Cindy ran into the freezing April morning, barefoot and without a coat to find her Uncle Monte Waterman in hopes of helping her mother, Cheryl. The family farmhouse located on County Road T between Boscobel and Fennimore was quickly filling with smoke and flame.
“Cheryl was having trouble getting down the stairs and became discombobulated from the lack of oxygen and smoke, so she wasn’t able to get out right away,” Monroe noted. “Monte ran in and began yelling for her but he said the smoke was so horrible and thick it was hard to find her. Finally he did and was able get her out.”
The family called 911 at 10:22 a.m. for firefighters to come and tend the fire that was consuming the enormous old home. The fire, believed to have started with a wood stove in the basement quickly grew to engulf the 100 year old home entirely as winds whipped across the ridge and fueled the flames.
“When I came over that hill, my heart just sank,” Monroe said of the flames dancing above the barn as she crested the hill on County T. “It was just horrible. It really shook me when I saw my dad and uncle cry as they stood and watched their childhood home burn. That was my grandparents’ home; we spent our summers there. It was the place we always wanted to go. It was where we all grew up.”
The blaze burned on as the strong cold winds continued, however a small strike of luck came for the Waterman family with the wind direction pushing the fire away from their livelihood, the barnyard.
“Someone was looking out for them that day, because the wind never blows up the yard like that, It was blowing just the perfect way, it almost looked like there was a hand pushing the flames over. If the wind would have been blowing the other way, there would have been so much more lost. They had an angel watching over them.”
As the fire raged on, more crews gathered at the farm from Fennimore, Wauzeka, Stitzer, Lancaster, Mt. Hope, and Blue River. Richland Center Fire Department also sent a crew to man the Boscobel Fire Department as they worked along side their mutual aid communities for four hours to fully extinguish flames. Grant County Fire Rehab was also on hand to assist. The crews had used 40 thousand gallons of water by the time they left the scene at 2:12 p.m.
Cheryl and Cindy were fortunate to be surrounded by family on the farm and were able to stay on the farm despite losing their home. And in true farmer fashion, Cheryl didn’t let tragedy slow her down.
“I offered to let them stay at my house, and asked what their plans were,” Monroe noted. “But she told me, ‘we gotta stay here, I still have to milk cows in the morning.’”
Anyone interested in helping the Waterman Family during this tough time is encouraged to reach out to Angie Monroe at 608-732-4322 with questions or offers of help.