• Last modified 3367 days ago (Jan. 28, 2010)


Fire destroys Lehigh home

Staff writer

In the early morning hours Thursday, Rick Mounts woke up to the sound of what he thought was one of his stepsons’ alarm clocks. He quickly realized the sound was a smoke alarm.

Mounts woke up his wife, Gina Mounts, and they escaped the burning house with most of their pets. Gina’s sons — Tristen and Jace Hett — were not there.

“They were at their dad’s, thank God,” she said.

Rick had some difficulty walking on his way out of the house. He was still recovering from foot surgery that had temporarily left him in a wheelchair, Gina said.

Rick is a staff sergeant in the Kansas National Guard. He served two deployments in Iraq.

After trying to save one of her dogs, Gina couldn’t stop coughing and was treated for smoke inhalation.

Lehigh firefighters received the call to the fire around 3:30 a.m., Lehigh Fire Chief Brian Unrau said.

“It was pretty much engulfed in flames,” he said of the condition of the home when firefighters arrived.

Flames were billowing out every window. Eventually the second story collapsed, Unrau said.

Hillsboro Fire Department also responded to the fire. The fire was mostly contained by 7 or 7:30 a.m., but firefighters couldn’t save the home.

An inspector said the furnace or wiring was the most likely cause of the fire. The insurance agent the Mountses spoke with urged them to buy a house rather than rebuild, Gina said.

The family lived in the house for three years. She said she had never felt more at home in a house before.

As word of the fire spread, the family was inundated with offers of help. Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, St. Luke Hospital Auxiliary, and friends provided clothes, a motel room for Thursday night, and money for essentials.

“I’ve got some of the best friends in the whole world,” Gina said. “Everybody has been so great.”

On Thursday she spoke with friends she hadn’t spoken to in as much as 15 years..

The news was traumatic for her sons, Gina said. Tristen and Jace were at the home of their father, Troy Hett, when a fire destroyed it Sept. 8, 2004.

The Mounts family will stay in the extra home of a recently married friend in Hillsboro until they can make permanent arrangements, Gina said. She wants to remain in the Hillsboro school district.

Anyone wishing to help can contact Gina’s employer, Ida French at Zimmerman’s Deli, 125 E. Main St., Marion, or call (620) 382-8860.

Last modified Jan. 28, 2010