The Milbank Fire and Rescue Department was busy last night, Tuesday, June 13. The unit responded to several calls due to the storm that moved through the area with rain and high winds.
“We knew it was going to be a busy night,” stated Fire Chief Kevin Schuelke. “Prior to the calls coming in, we put everyone on alert and prepared the trucks.”
The first call came in at 8:09 p.m. at 907 S. 4th Street. Lightning struck a tree and hit a power line which started a detached garage on fire. At 8:20 p.m. the department responded to 208 ½ N. 1st Street where power lines were seen arcing.
At 8:29 p.m. a call came in from 509 Drake Ave. Part of the steel roof on a building owned by Lloyd Tillma blew off and took out power lines directly in front of the Steve and Sandy Karels home. “Sandy was trapped inside the home, so firefighters helped her out a rear window,” said Schuelke. The lines ignited a fire in the Karels’ front yard and caused small explosions.
The home of Jim Hartman, directly east of the Tillma building, was hit the hardest. His detached steel garage was lifted off its foundation and smashed by the roof of the adjacent building. “I was out fishing, and Harvey Schaefer called me and told me I better get home because a storm was coming,” said Hartman. “I got home, pulled my boat and vehicle into my garage and went inside. I just sat down when I heard a loud boom.”
The storm passed through quickly, and according to Hartman, he was able to inspect the damage a few minutes later. “My garage was totaled,” he stated. “Parts of the roof fell on my vehicle. The boat is okay, but I lost a lot of my good fishing poles.” Hartman also had six kayaks, a kayak trailer, and a canoe outside that received damage. Shingles were blown off, and the southwest corner of his home’s roof appeared to have come loose.
Despite the damage, Hartman feels thankful nothing worse happened. “My brother, Bob, was outside my garage and got into his vehicle just when the roof blew right over the top of his van,” he said. “If it had been seconds different, Bob could have gotten seriously injured.”