Fire destroys Traer family’s home mere days before Thanksgiving

Community, school district rally around young family

The Kinkade family’s home at 708 Fourth Street in Traer pictured on fire on Saturday, Nov. 18. The photo is from a GoFundMe page set up to benefit the young family in the wake of the devastating fire. PHOTO COURTESY OF GOFUNDME

TRAER – In the wake of a destructive house fire that took place just five days before Thanksgiving, a young Traer family has been embraced by members of the community in response.

On the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 18, members of the Traer Fire Dept. received a page for a structure fire taking place at 708 Fourth Street.

“[The] page stated everyone was out safely and upon arrival it was confirmed,” Traer Fire Chief Tyler Sell told the Telegraph. “The fire was itself contained to the bedroom but there was heavy smoke/water damage throughout the home. The occupants were renting the home.”

According to real estate records, the property — located just east of Taylor Park — is owned by CMHC Investments LLC which is registered to Robert Steffeny of Traer. Before the fire, Brianna and Anthony Kinkade were renting the home and resided there along with their four young children.

Upon Traer Fire’s arrival on Nov. 18, Chief Sell said the fire was showing in the northwest bedroom before breaking out the west window.

“Water was applied from the window to make an initial knock down of the fire followed by [an] interior attack for final extinguishment,” Chief Sell continued. “The fire itself was contained to the bedroom but there was heavy smoke/water damage throughout the home.”

As part of a GoFundMe set up for the Kinkade family, the events of Nov. 18 are described in further detail.

“On Saturday November 18th my husband Anthony and I were helping a very close friend of ours move and we got the phone call around 3:30 p.m. from our daughter that our house was on fire,” Brianna Kinkade wrote on the fundraising page. “[S]he had called 911 and gotten her younger siblings out of the house. She is 14 and younger siblings [are] ages 11, 7, and 5. Everyone is safe however everything in our home has been declared a total loss if it has any sort of fabric or material base to it, it is so smoke damaged that it cannot be used …”

While no one was physically injured in the fire, such a loss would be tragic any time of year but the impact is especially acute this close to the holidays.

Almost immediately following the fire, the Kinkades’ neighbor Lea Ann Cluts along with Traer city councilor Trish Kennedy began organizing a community response to the tragedy.

“I think for anyone in a situation like this, where they’ve lost everything, the community should be able to come together and help,” Kennedy told the Telegraph. “I stepped in to help organize monetary donations because people were asking how to donate. I helped [the Kinkades] set up an account at Farmers Savings Bank and people can stop into the bank or mail in a donation.”

Kennedy said Cluts began organizing clothing donations through a needs list posted on social media.

“We’ve collected clothing for the younger kids, toys, kitchen items, a dining table, chairs, couch, and other furniture – all donated. The best part was that between a few different families, enough beds were donated so that no one had to go without one. This all happened in about a 24-hour time period.”

Kennedy, who also works as the secondary secretary at North Tama, said the school district also responded — taking care of all new school supplies and outdoor winter clothing.

While North Tama principal Taylor Howard was unable to comment on the family specifically when contacted by the Telegraph, he was able to describe the response the district has mounted since the fire.

“Whenever a family experiences a major life event, our staff at North Tama does a fantastic job of stepping up to help the students and their families. How we respond is always a little bit different because every situation is different,” Howard said in an email.

“Lindsay Linck and Jana Monat, our school counselors, have done a fantastic job in building relationships with outside organizations that we can turn to [to] help students and families in need.

“The people of Traer and the surrounding communities that make up our school district have so many great organizations that help our school by donating school supplies, clothing, household items, etc. for many of our students. Our recently retired elementary school counselor, Teresa O’Meara has helped set up North Tama for future success by spending many years developing and maintaining relationships with the community and organizations.”

Howard continued: “Our classroom teachers, paraeducators, office staff, and so many others who work in the building also jump in to help students in need. When a major event happens I get many phone calls, text messages, and emails from people not only asking how they can help but letting me know how they are planning on helping or have already helped.”

After Thanksgiving, Kennedy publicly thanked those who had rallied around the Kinkade family, writing on Facebook, “I want to express how much I appreciate our community. It’s awesome to see people in the community come together to help others. One of the most human, compassionate things we can do in life is to take care of others.”

For those who would like to donate to the Kinkade family, an account has been opened at Farmers Savings Bank & Trust in Traer. Contact the bank at (319) 478-2148, or stop by at 611 Second Street in Traer for more information.