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Second fire destroyed whatever was left of shop

Spellerbergs thought fire was extinguished and were already cleaning

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Richard and Cindy Spellerberg are sifting through wreckage after two fires in the same shop destroyed personal treasures, tractors and a service truck.

The first fire broke out Monday, May 20 and did moderate damage in the attic of a large shop Richard Spellerberg uses to store collectibles and work on equipment. Family members stayed late that night taking inventory and cleaning, thinking the fire was over, he said.

“I put the dog back in the kennel since there was no damage there. We plugged freezers back in because we thought it was done,” he said, until the fire rekindled with a vengeance early Tuesday morning.

Spellerberg said people drove by at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday and didn’t see smoke. Fifteen minutes later another batch of cars passed the rural Mooreton residence and smoke still was not visible. He received a call from a friend at 6:45 a.m. who said smoke was pouring from the shop. Spellerberg said he ran outside, got the dog out of the kennel and by that time the entire building was fully engulfed, spiraling a thick column of smoke high into the air, visible for miles as flames reached more than 20 feet high.

The second flare caught everyone by surprise. The Mooreton Fire Department checked the scene Monday night at 8 p.m. and didn’t find any hot spots, said Brett Lambrecht, Richland County Emergency Management director.

Eight fire departments, Richland County deputies and state patrol were at the scene Tuesday morning. Tanker trucks from Mooreton, Barney, Wyndmere, Dwight, Great Bend, Hankinson and Mantador responded and ferried water from Mooreton as firemen fought to extinguish the blaze, which took ore than three hours to get under control.

Spellerberg’s shop is located at 16685 Highway 13 and is considered a total loss. The fire is still under investigation, but authorities told Spellerberg they think it was caused by a faulty chimney, he said.

The family is trying to determine exactly what was inside the building, so the value of items destroyed by the fire is not known, he said.

The shop was torn down by Thursday. All that remained was the wreckage of one tractor.

Spellerberg collected antiques, including Redwing crocks. He had between 30-35 stored on shelves inside the shop, including his mother’s crocks, he said. Their sentimental value can’t be replaced, he said. He also lost a complete set of John Deere precision toys, a restored Super M tractor and both a 4850 John Deere tractor and service truck he was restoring. The service truck alone was valued about $18,000, Spellerberg said.

There were also four freezers full of meat, including 300 pounds of bacon he just made a month ago, he said.

Despite the loss, Spellerberg said he did have something to look forward to Thursday. “The good news is I am going to be a grandpa today. That is a blessing. It’s going to be a boy,” he said of grandchild No. 2. “We are putting this into perspective. This could have been worse.”

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Karen Speidel is the News-Monitor Media Managing Editor

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