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Family who lost everything in fire awed by outpouring

Just 36 hours after the Andersons’ home was destroyed, the community had already donated dozens of boxes, bags and totes full of clothes, toys and everyday living essentials to the young family. Wednesday afternoon, the Andersons’ daughters, Dakotah, 5, and Dalilah, 4, looked at the donations. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

An early morning fire Tuesday at 409 Elm Street destroyed an Alexandria family’s home.

Jonathan and Kassondra Anderson and their daughters, Dakotah, 5, and Dalilah, 4, lost everything in the fire, but they’re safe.

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According to the Andersons, they had smelled something like gas in the house Monday evening.

“We didn’t really know what it was so we left because the girls and I had all gotten headaches,” Jonathan said. “The youngest one was throwing up and Kassie was adamant that we’ve got to get out of here because we don’t want anything bad to happen.”

The family left and stayed at his parents’ place for the night, planning to call a plumber in the morning.

It turned out to be a miraculous decision.

“I had to work the next day and we came back shortly before 6 a.m. for me to grab a pair of scrubs and go to work,” Jonathan said; he’s a nurse at Bethany Community.

“We could see [the fire] as we were coming up. We were like, ‘What is going on over there?’ Kassie kept saying she thought it was the house next door. You never want to believe it’s yours.”

But it was.

“Other than the large inconvenience of losing your things, we’re just grateful that ... we still have each other,” he said, choking back tears. “That’s all I care about right now.”

And the community outpouring, Jonathan said, is baffling.

“We’re new to the area and all these people do this and they don’t even know us.”

“We’re just so, so grateful,” Kassie said.

“And very humbled,” Jonathan added.



Everything they had – clothes, toys, pillows, shoes, dishes, tools – everything that makes a home a home is gone.

For now, the family is living at a local hotel figuring out their next step.

While they regroup, the Alexandria community is coming together to support the family.

Donations are being collected at Integrity Title, 220 22nd Avenue East in Alexandria.

Here’s what can be donated:

● Clothing: Sizes extra-large for a man and woman, size 5T for a 5-year-old girl and size 4T for a 4-year-old girl. If you can give clothing, please bring it in a plastic tote, if possible, so that the family can use it when they move to their new place.

● Personal and household items: Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, toys, children’s books, bedding, etc. The family doesn’t have a place to keep furniture donations at this time.

● Gift cards or money: Gift cards for food, clothing and more are welcomed. Cash and checks can be dropped off at Integrity Title. Checks should be made out to Jonathan and Kassondra Anderson.

Jim and Jill Wagner, owners of Integrity Title, are coordinating the collection.

The Wagners owned the house that was destroyed; Alexandria Beetles baseball players stayed there when the Wagners owned the team.

The Andersons were in a contract for deed to buy the home.

“They’re great people,” Jill said Wednesday.

She and Jim went to the house with the Andersons Tuesday afternoon.

“It doesn’t look that bad on the outside, but inside, it’s all black, there’s nothing left.”

Jill said the community donations so far have been wonderful.

“They need the things you and I take for granted are there when we wake up in the morning,” Jill said; everything from toothpaste to socks.

Alexandria Fire Chief Jeff Karrow said the fire started in the basement of the house and the exact cause is undetermined, but may have been electrical.

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133