WATERMAN – It’s the kind of call every police officer hopes they never get – one at their own home.
Jason Swanson, a Waterman police officer, was on duty just after 11 a.m. Nov. 7 when his wife called and told him the clothes dryer was smoking. By the time Swanson arrived at the house, black smoke was pouring out of the dryer vent and a second-floor bedroom window.
Swanson said he called the fire department, then went into the house with a fire extinguisher.
“Flames were coming out of the dryer,” he said. “I hit it with the fire extinguisher until I couldn’t see flames anymore; I think I emptied the fire extinguisher. The whole upstairs was filled with black smoke.”
Swanson cut the power to the house and went back inside, certain something was still burning. He was eventually taken to the hospital by ambulance and treated for smoke inhalation.
It was not immediately clear how extensively the fire damaged the home. Waterman Police Chief Chuck Breese said that, based on his experience, the house probably would not be habitable for four to six months.
Waterman Fire Chief Dave Lave said the fire started in the dryer but its cause is unknown.
The family is staying with friends temporarily, Swanson said. He was unsure what they would do going forward.
“It’s still kind of soaking in,” he said the next day, his voice still raspy from breathing the smoke.
Swanson’s children, two boys ages 9 and 10, were hit the hardest by losses to the fire, because the second-floor laundry room is directly across from their bedrooms and their clothes were in the washer and dryer at the time of the fire. Breese said virtually all of the children’s belongings, including clothes, toys and shoes, were lost.
“Everything in the youngest boy’s room is black,” Swanson said. “Everything.”
Donations to help the family are being accepted at Waterman Village Hall during normal business hours. The boys wear clothes sizes 8 and 12, and their mother wears a size 8 medium. Swanson did not give his own sizes and said he doesn’t know what to ask.
“I’m kind of used to being the helper, not asking for help,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said he has been touched by the community’s support.
“Years and years ago, when Chuck offered me this job, he said Waterman is a community unlike any other,” Swanson said. “The last 24 hours have really reinforced what a great community it is.”
How to help
Donations for the Swanson family are being accepted at Waterman Village Hall, 215 W. Adams St., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday.
The family needs clothing in boys’ sizes 8 and 12 and women’s size 8 medium. The boys wear children’s shoes sizes 1 1/2 and 3 1/2. Other donations, particularly to help the 9- and 10-year-old boys, are appreciated.