Area family rebuilds after Memorial Day weekend fire

THE FACEBOOK page maintained by the Madison Fire Department displays (above) a photo of the home that Stephanie Reichling and Jeremiah Howard and their family used to live in northeast of Madison. The home caught fire and was destroyed during the Memorial Day weekend while the family was away on a camping trip.

A Madison area family continues to put their lives back together weeks after a fire destroyed their home.

Stephanie Reichling, her fiance Jeremiah Howard and their family left Lake County on Memorial Day weekend for a mini-vacation to start the summer. They planned for several days of rest and relaxation camping with family at Lake Poinsett.

Their vacation didn't last for three days; they received a phone call on Sunday morning that their home was ruined by a fire. They returned to Lake County that day to find their home, located about 3 miles southwest of Nunda, destroyed.

According to Reichling, about all that remained of the two-story, old farmhouse was the front porch and part of the kitchen. When they searched the debris, about all that they could find was ash.

"Everything was pretty much gone," Reichling said.

Reichling said the fire's cause is still undetermined. Thunderstorms had occurred that morning, so lightning could have struck the house. The electrical problems with the house's wiring also could have started the fire.

Reichling and Howard are raising two boys, Milo, 5, and Richard, 1. Reichling also has two stepsons, Mason, 16, and Alex, 13, who spend every other weekend with their father in Lake County. Reichling is employed at Dakota Ethanol in Wentworth, and Howard works as a journeyman plumber in Brookings.

They were buying the home northeast of Madison, and the family enjoys the location. Milo is a student at Rutland School. They have dogs and raise turkeys, chickens and ducks at their rural home. They returned to Lake Poinsett, retrieved their camper and are currently living in it at their rural home site while they rebuild.

They have completed the demolition and removed the debris from the site. Reichling said they have also worked with their insurance carrier, DeSmet Farm Mutual Insurance, to resolve their coverage. The couple said they appreciate the help that they have received from neighbors and friends who have donated items.

"We really are lucky to live in such a great community," Reichling said.

Her sister, Shelby Kaiser, set up a donation site at GoFundMe.com using "House fire recovery Madison, SD" as the title. Kaiser asked donors for help with replacing appliances, furniture and kitchenware. The GoFundMe page included a goal of $10,000 in donations, and as of Friday, 34 donors had contributed $2,005.

Reichling shared her appreciation for the firefighters who came from communities across the county to fight the fire. She also thanked the local ministerial association for its help in contacting the Red Cross and their insurance company.

"We're thankful for the Lake County firefighters and the chaplain. He was really helpful," Reichling said.