Home of retired rural Lansing couple destroyed by fire early during the week of Christmas

Rural Lansing home burns the week of Christmas ... The home of Max and Cherrie Ruch of rural Lansing burned to the ground Monday, December 21. Pictured in the photo above, Max Ruch sits in a chair surrounded by the Christmas presents they were able to save from the home’s sun porch as the home he and his children built burns out of control. Submitted photo.

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

Monday, December 21, Cherrie Ruch was in the kitchen making Christmas cookies when she noticed a lot of smoke behind the rural Lansing home she and her husband, Max, own on River View Road along the Mississippi River. Her husband came into the kitchen asking why it was so smokey outside.

When they checked, the fall leaves and dried foliage behind their house were on fire. They quickly began filling containers full of water, trying to douse the flames. When they realized that the flames had also spread below their A-frame house which was built on piers, Cherrie called 9-1-1. In a matter of minutes, their house was ablaze.

Cherrie quickly grabbed their small dog, Molly, and the Christmas packages which were in tote bags on the sun porch, ready to be loaded in the car. Max sustained some burns as he tried to put the fire out on the back side of the house. Luckily, no one was badly injured, but the house and everything inside quickly burned to the ground.

The Ruches don’t know exactly how the fire started, but Cherrie thinks that perhaps an ember from their pellet stove came out of the chimney and started the dry leaves on fire. There didn’t seem to be any other reason for a fire to start.

Without any close neighbors who were home, all they could do was wait for the Harpers Ferry Fire Department to arrive. Some people working on the nearby railroad saw the smoke and came to help. They helped get Max and Cherrie safely away from the burning structure as the Harpers Ferry and Lansing Fire Departments arrived.

Harpers Ferry Fire Chief Dave Cota said that the house was fully involved beyond control by the time they arrived because it had gotten too much of a headstart with the strong wind blowing that day.

“We think an ember from the pellet stove may have come out of the chimney and started the fire,” he said.

The Lansing Fire Department assisted with the call because of the remote location with no close water accessibility for the hoses. The transformer on the power pole behind the house and the large LP tank in close proximity to the front of the home were of concern, but the electricity had been cut and the LP tank’s relief valve worked as it was supposed to do, releasing the pressure on the tank to form more of a “blow torch” type relief mechanism that prevented the tank from rupturing or exploding.

Approximately 20 volunteer fire fighters from the two departments spent nearly three hours containing the fire, which had spread to the hillside behind the home as well. Cota remarked of the Ruches, “They were extremely lucky that they were not injured any worse than they were.”

The Lansing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) ambulance service arrived on the scene just prior to the fire trucks. After assessing the couple, the crew took them to Veterans Memorial Hospital in Waukon for treatment. They were released but need to follow up with a doctor’s care for Max’s burns.

The Ruches are currently staying at a friend’s home in Lansing, going to follow-up doctor appointments for Max’s burns, and trying to stay on top of the follow-up with insurance. Coping with the loss of all their worldly possessions is a daily task.
Cherrie said, “Max and his kids built that house piece by piece all through the 1970s. We got married in 2003 and when we retired from our jobs we moved here to live full-time about 10 years ago.”

Cherrie had been an early childhood teacher while Max had worked in social services with troubled youth most of his life. They may rebuild at the same spot, but for now, are thankful to be helped by friends and family. Max’s son established a go-fund-me page for them: https://gofund.me/8f2568a8.

Additional direct monetary donations may also be sent to Kerndt Brothers Bank, P.O. Box 370, Lansing, IA 52151. Monetary donations are most helpful at this time until they decide if or when they will rebuild. Checks may be made to Cherrie or Max Ruch.

Cherrie’s advice to others, “Make copies of everything that is important. All of our documents in our fireproof safe were burned to ashes. All the pictures and files on the computer are gone. Give copies of important pictures to other family members. Keep important documents in a safe deposit box. We can always buy more things but pictures and keepsakes can’t be replaced.”

The Ruches would like to thank everyone who has offered assistance, support and prayers to help them out during this difficult time.

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