On Nov. 13, UW-River Falls Greenhouse and Field Plot Manager Dan Waletzko and his family experienced a great tragedy. They lost their home to a devastating fire in River Falls near the Knowles Center.
Waletzko said that they are still unaware of what caused the fire. The family had an investigator come out and spend an afternoon trying to reconstruct things. However, they could not find anything that might have led to things starting on fire. He said if the experts still do not know, they may just be up the stream without any sort of answer.
Waletzko added that things unfolded very quickly. He was home at the time of the fire and his first concern was to get his three children out of the home. He also wanted to get the vehicles out of the driveway so the fire truck would have access to the house. He contemplated going back and getting some of the hard drives of photos from the house, but he said that once the natural gas meter caught on fire, there was no way that he was going to go back inside.
Thankfully, the family was able to find shelter in River Falls after having to commute for about a week. The University found a place for the family to stay within that week. Waltezko thanks Karen Olson and Lisa Owens, both of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences for aiding the family with resources that were available to help the family.
The agricultural department has also donated items that the family needs. People have donated beds and chairs, and a collection has also been started within the department. Owens and Olson contacted Treasures of the Heart as well.
Academic Department Associate for Plant and Earth Soil Science Sue Freiermuth said, “Everyone has been so generous.”
As to how the family is adjusting, Waletzko said, “Some days are better than others, but we have a roof over our heads, everyone is safe, we have a place to sleep, we both still have our jobs, so we are both thankful for that.”
However, sometimes it can still be difficult. He brought up how he wanted to fix the door hinge on his car, and when he realized that he did not have any tools to fix that, he started thinking about the house and that he is just happy that his family is safe.
The Waletzkos have also put together a blog online, http://helpwaletzkofamily.weebly.com, which provides updates on how the family is doing. Waletzko said that publishing a blog was easier, rather than trying to contact everybody. The blog also lists items that the family still needs; however, as of now, the family has no immediate needs.
UWRF has been helping out as well as the community. The blog states that all of the family’s major needs were met within the first days and week of the fire. Waletzko said that even people they do not know have donated things to the family.