Picking up the pieces | BrainerdDispatch.com | Brainerd, Minnesota

Picking up the pieces

Firefighter helps victims face the aftermath

Posted: October 2, 2012 - 11:20pm
Steve Kohls Brainerd firefighter Dennis Logelin carried out an antique mirror Friday for Terri Ward whose mother is a resident at the Hillcrest Apartments in Brainerd. The apartment was destroyed by fire last Thursday.
Steve Kohls Brainerd firefighter Dennis Logelin carried out an antique mirror Friday for Terri Ward whose mother is a resident at the Hillcrest Apartments in Brainerd. The apartment was destroyed by fire last Thursday.

Measured in dollars and cents, the items Dennis Logelin and his crew found in the aftermath of Thursday’s fire that destroyed the Hillcrest Apartment building in south Brainerd don’t add up to much.

A Bible. A picture of a victim’s deceased husband. And perhaps the most surprising recovery, Bino, a cat who fled the scene only to return to hide under a bed in its former apartment.

More than 20 of the apartment residents lost their homes in the fire but fortunately, no one was killed. Still, the devastation of losing one’s home has hit residents hard and even small objects can hold sentimental value.

Logelin, a paid-on call Brainerd firefighter, was among the first at the scene at Thursday’s massive blaze that destroyed an apartment building valued at $1 million.

His role changed when his construction company, Lakes Area Roofing and General Construction, was hired by the insurance company to provide security at the site. When the insurance company’s structural engineer evaluated the structure, it was deemed to be unsafe for the former residents to enter and retrieve any personal items. Their only hope of recovering their property was to hire a professional to sift through the charred rubble. That was when Logelin stepped up and volunteered his company’s services, free of charge, to the fire victims. Up to that point it was his job to tell disappointed residents they couldn’t return to their apartments on their own. He surmised most of them couldn’t afford to hire a professional to look through the rubble.

“During the time we were here in the security process we got to know each individual and it got to be more than (a job) ... It just hit the heart,” he said.

With 20 years in the construction department and 12 years on the fire department, Logelin said he met the insurance company’s criteria for a professional in this case. Working with him are his wife, Julie, sons Jesse, Joe and Nik (a ninth-grader who helps after school) and his daughter’s fiance, Nick Peterson, who volunteers after working his shift at Fed Ex.

When fire victim Jodi Herron feared that her gray tabby cat, Bino, was either killed or gone for good, Logelin tried to encourage her to stay positive by telling the story of his own 14-year-old dog, Skippy, who was returned by the DNR after being lost for nine days. On Sunday, Herron’s 27th birthday, he entered her apartment and there, hiding under the bed which was under layers of sheet rock, Logelin found Beano alive. He wrapped the cat up in a blanket and returned Beano to Herron.

“We thought we lost her for good but we didn’t,” Herron said Tuesday. “He seems like a guy with a really good heart.”

Logelin said he and his crew expected to work until dark Tuesday and the volunteer project which has turned into a labor of love, would likely continue on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I’ve gotten to be very attached to the families here,” he said.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com. He may be followed at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews.