GLYNDON – When someone’s house catches on fire in the city, it’s important to get the fire chief on the phone right away. It’s especially important when the house happens to be owned by the fire chief.
That’s what happened to Glyndon Fire Chief Bob Cuchna, who was at work at the Fargo Fire Department at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday when he heard about the fire at his house at 351 County Highway 9 in rural Clay County. Cuchna is both a captain for the full-time fire department in Fargo and chief of Glyndon’s volunteer unit.
“I’m playing with some chickens right now, they’re all in the car. We’re trying to find a place to put them,” said Cuchna, over the sounds of clucking and crowing.
Cuchna’s wife was home at the time the fire started, as were 18 chickens, who Cuchna said the family had brought indoors to “baby” them because of the chilly weather outside.
Firefighters were able to get the chickens out without injury, and his wife was also uninjured, after calling dispatch to report the fire and ask that they call her husband.
“It doesn’t take much to do damage” to a home in the event of a fire, said Cuchna of the toll smoke and water had taken on his home after the fire was discovered having begun in the basement in some electrical wiring.
Cuchna said the damage would have been far greater had it not been for the smoke alarms installed in the basement and throughout the home.
“They have this product, I can’t remember the name but I’m endorsing them, it alerts all the other smoke detectors in the house when one goes off,” he said. “You’ve got to keep them in order, if they’re over 10 years old get new ones, change the batteries twice a year. They’re your first line of defense, and even then it [a fire] moves fast through your home.”
Cuchna said the cause of the fire appeared to be the water heater, which one of his children reported having stopped working while the child was taking a shower. Cuchna said the electrical breaker was discovered to have been off, and it appeared that there might have been a short in the electrical circuit.
Cuchna and Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said the damage from the fire, which spread up from the basement into the kitchen cabinets, would render the house uninhabitable for some time.
Cuchna said his next step was to begin the long process of contacting his insurance company and fire investigators, a side of the process he said he’d never had to deal with before. And then, he said, the time-consuming and laborious process of cleanup.
“I know there’s a lot of work," he said. "You look at what you accumulate over the years. We’re definitely going to have a spring cleaning.”
One thing he wasn’t worried about was finding a place for his family to stay during the process, as he said he had family in town. “We’ll find someone to shack up with."
Emily Welker, INFORUM