Ancestry.com began to interest me more the past couple of years. Genealogy projects seem to appear when at a certain age. My cousin on my mother’s side, Ron Herem, begin getting interested about a year before me. His fancy was caught by the history of our family, and he’s made a trip back to Norway to see some of the places our family lived, connects with family that still lives in Norway, and has traced our family back to the 1400s and perhaps beyond. I’ve focused more on current goings-on.
I found it embarrassing how little information I had about my cousins, their children, and now, grandchildren. But I got to work and have been filling in the blanks on Ancestry.com. Facebook has helped track these family members down and get pictures.
Last week, as I was getting pictures from Facebook for the children and grandchildren of my cousin, Sam Larsen, I got a shock. Sam’s father, Gordon, was one of my dad’s brothers and I know Sam and his wife, Sue, very well. As I followed Facebook to one of his sons, Brent Larsen, I learned on Monday, April 20, his home had burned down and nearly killed his children. I saw that friends of his had organized a GoFundMe.com drive to aid him and his family, and of course, contributed. See below:
Before you stop reading, I want to share something else. In the story of how this terrible fire happened, which I’ve reproduced from Brent’s Facebook posting below, note in addition to sharing the details of his ordeal, one main concern of his is alerting other families to how easily this can happen and how the video his kids were following, contained no warnings or cautions, such as, “make sure your parents are around when you do this.”
I’d love for you to donate to help Brent, but if you can’t do that but know of young families who might accidentally put themselves at risk by doing something like this, please forward this to them.
Thanks so much!
Note: The following is taken verbatim from Brent’s Facebook posting a couple of days after he lost his home, but knew his children were safe and would recover. And at the very end, a bit of humor.
Where do I begin? This last week has been the scariest, most humbling experience of my life and has changed my family in countless ways forever. To all my family, friends, neighbors, kindhearted strangers, colleagues, firefighters, EMT’s, doctors and nurses, it is with the deepest most heartfelt gratitude and love that I can possibly express, thank you, thank you, thank you!
On Monday 4/20/20 I was working from home with my four children in the house. They had finished their daily online schooling responsibilities when I decided to take a walk over my lunch break. A daily practice, weather permitting, that I have adopted since this horrific corona virus has impacted us all. When I left the house my oldest, Jessica, and my youngest Isabella, were in the kitchen baking a cake. I headed out to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and walk to a beach where I like to meditate before walking home.
The beach is just under a mile away and I’m sitting on a bench, eyes clothed, mind centered, when I receive every parents worst nightmare – an emergency call from Jessica who was hysterical. “Help dad, where are you, Bella and I are burned and your house is on fire, we called 911, please come home!” I’m nearly a mile from my house on foot and sheer utter adrenaline fueled panic kicks in. I immediately start sprinting home. I have never ran so fast for so far in my life and what took 5+ minutes felt like 5 hours. I could not get home fast enough.
Horrific scenarios started cycling through my mind. While running home I had my headphones on and told the kids to keep the phone line open to me and tell me what’s happening, but I’m not going to respond so I can focus on my breathing. Jessica explained that Bella had boiled (vegetable) oil, the pot spilled and started the fire. My kids were all safely out of the house standing in the cul de sac when I finally made my way up Linden Circle. As I crested the hill and saw my kids standing around crying with dark smoke billowing out of my garage door I sprinted even faster.
I quickly assessed the girls burns and saw they were “ok” although they were burned. I told the kids to stay where they were and I ran in the front door thinking I may be able to grab a large blanket I had on my couch in the living room to smother the fire. As soon as I entered the house I was engulfed in smoke descending from the ceiling to about my waist. I had my t-shirt pulled over my mouth and entered the living room. I ducked under the smoke to try and assess the status of the fire and could clearly see the ceiling in my kitchen fully ablaze with the fire already spreading onto my living room ceiling. It was too late I was not going to be able to stop it.
I sprinted back out the front door, shouted at kids to stay put and ran next door as I have an elderly neighbor. His wife, I knew, was away at work and he was not very mobile requiring assistance from an oxygen machine. I started pounding on his door, ringing the doorbell, screaming “fire” at the top of my lungs. I could not see him through the window beside his front door and was severely panicking. His door was locked and I was preparing to start trying to kick down the door or break in through a window. Luckily another nearby neighbor was in his backyard heard me and ran over to assist. Shortly thereafter the neighbor did hit his garage door button and we were able to get inside. Smoke was already billowing into his condo. He was confused, but the other neighbor had lived next to him for years and was able to get through to him. We needed to vacate the house immediately. He grabbed his oxygen machine and I helped the man out grabbing his zimmer frame in the process. We were able to get him a safe distance from the house.
At that point the neighbors on the other side with two small children came running out of their house, jumped in their car and ripped out of the driveway. Finally, I knew everyone in the immediate vicinity of my burning house was safe. I stood in the cul de sac staring in disbelief, this isn’t real, this only happens on TV. My kids and I ran to one another and embraced. Everyone was crying, Jessica and Isabella had burns, but we were safe. I will never forget that hug, the five of us sobbing in one another’s arms.
About a minute or two later, the first Chanhassen Fire department respondent arrived. He immediately ran towards the house barking instructions into his walkie talkie describing the property, calling out where the fire hydrant was to the first fire truck that was enroute. At this point my adrenaline rush had expired and after taking in quite a bit of smoke my asthma flared. Luckily an ambulance arrived shortly thereafter. Jess, Bella and I got in the back and they began treating the girls burns while hooking me up to a nebulizer with oxygen. My ex, my children’s mother Siobhan, also arrived on site and was able to help comfort Gabriella and Roman who were understandably upset. The ambulance took us to the ER unit at Hospital 212 in Chaska, where we stayed for the next couple of hours getting treated. The nurses and the doctors were so awesome, I am so thankful for their kindness and care. Ultimately, Jessica and Bella had first and second degree burns on their legs while I was tested and treated for smoke inhalation, carbon monoxide poisoning and an asthma attack.
I am so grateful to report that 5 days later we are all making a full recovery. The girls continue to have their burns treated and washed daily while Regent’s Hospital Burn Unit tracks their recovery through telemedicine. My lungs were compromised for a few days, but as I write this update, physically I feel back to 100%. Mentally and emotionally we all have a long road of recovery ahead, but my kids are so strong they continue to amaze and inspire me each day with how quickly they have adapted to this horrific experience.
I have received what can best be described as a tidal wave of love, support, thoughts, prayers and positive vibes from so many people I cannot hope to respond to each person individually at this time. However, there are a couple of people I want to specifically recognize and thank for their incredible help and support during this ordeal. First, Chanhassen, Chaska and Victoria Fire Departments. Having now run into a burning house and understanding first hand the danger they face in helping others, their bravery and selflessness is absolutely incredible! The EMTs, doctors and nurses that took care of my daughters and I at Hospital 212 ER unit. The tenderness and care that you expressed in treating not only my girls physical ailments, but also their mental and emotional needs was truly a grace from God. For this I will forever be so so thankful! To my family, my mom Sue, my dad Sam and my brother Kirk, your reassuring presence and unconditional love, (even without hugging during social distancing protocols) especially in those first days reinforce how lucky I am to have you! My ex-wife Siobhan has been an absolute rock and continues to smother our children in love when I cannot be with them. Todd & Leah Hiller and Jon Relyea for organizing the GoFundMe campaigns. I am so humbled by the generosity and kindness of close friends and family as well as contributors that I do not know directly.
There are simply no words that can adequately express my gratitude, especially during this pandemic when so many are suffering. The Firefighersforhealing.org charity and their mission to help families of children that have been injured in fire is an inspiration and a cause that I will contribute to and help ‘pay forward’ to other families that have been impacted by house fires going forward. To the countless friends that have overwhelmed my family with messages of love, support and hope. I will never be able to individually recognize you all, but please know that each and every one of your thoughts, messages, prayers and financial contributions have helped my family and I so much and will never be forgotten! If I can ever help any of you in any capacity if you or loved one needs it in the future it will be done. I also want to call out my employer, Anaplan. I feel so grateful to not only have a job at this time, but to have a company that truly lives it values. They have made every mental healthcare service available to my kids and I and a multitude of colleagues, both close and unknown have contributed financial support including the C-suite leadership team. Lastly, my beautiful children. You mean everything to me. I may have lost everything materialistically speaking, but in the process have gained so much more and I am so grateful during your formative years you have had the opportunity to see all the “good” there is in this world. It’s easy to get down and negative with everything that is going on right now and yet our humanity still shines through when people are in need. We have a truly global ‘village’ of love and support that spans the oceans – never lose sight of how important we are all to one another!
Brent, Jessica, Gabriella, Roman & Isabella Larsen
Lesson learned – the impetus for the oil fire was a TikTok video recreating a Disney recipe for churros. Parents, please make sure you talk to your kids about the dangers of cooking in general but especially with oil. The ‘column’ of fire shooting out of the pot from burning vegetable oil immediately ignited the microwave above it and by the grace of God, my daughter spilled the pot while trying to move it to the sink a mere 3 feet away. The spill splattered and caused the burns on their legs but had she been successful in getting the pot to the sink I’m not sure all my kids would be alive today. We’ve all heard not to put an oil or grease fire out with water but please take 90 seconds to watch and educate yourselves and your loved ones on exactly why.
DANGER! Throwing Water On Oil Fire | Earth Lab
The Disney churros recipe that my daughter was attempting to mimic while I was out on my walk – no parental warnings and they make it look so “easy”. Please learn from my family’s experience and talk to your kids, grandkids, loved ones about the dangers of deep frying in oil
On Scene – Chanhassen Housefire (local media company covering my house fire)
And a little levity – my new least favorite song