Friends, family set up benefit fund at Crookston National Bank after Tuesday fire destroys home west of Crookston.

    In the wake of Monday’s blizzard, Mark Gunderson Tuesday morning was just about to tackle a huge snow drift that was blocking the gravel-road entrance to the large homestead about three miles west of Crookston that’s home to the house he lives in with his family, a house his mom lives in, and a house where Mike Jobe and his family live.

    And that’s when his mom alerted him to smoke coming from the roof of his house. “She said, ‘You got a fire in your house,’” Gunderson said Tuesday while meeting with American Red Cross emergency responders in his mom’s house next door to the charred remains of the house he lived in with his partner, Pauline Sanchez, and their family. “I figured it had to be steam or something, not smoke” he added.

    He went inside to investigate, opened a door to the attic, saw the fire, and knew everyone had to get out. Everyone did.

    The 911 came in at 7:50 a.m. Tuesday and firefighters from Crookston, Fisher and East Grand Forks responded. But the snow drifts blocking the gravel road that heads west from the Highway 75 bypass made it difficult for Crookston firefighters to get to the fire as fast as they would have wanted to. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office and Crookston Area Ambulance Service also responded to the call from 26337 295th Ave. SW.

    Other than appearing to start in the attic, a cause has not yet been determined.

    As Gunderson detailed the terrible events of Tuesday morning, the two Red Cross representatives from Grand Forks sympathized with him. Gunderson responded by putting things in perspective.

    “We’re still standing, we still have breath in our lungs,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse.”

    Friends and relatives of the family are rallying to provide needed items for them for the short-term, and efforts are underway to establish a benefit fund at Crookston National Bank.