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Local Editorials

Heerdts anxious to move into new home

Kirsten and Eric Heerdt's white, two-story home in Mt. Pleasant was one of those stately, colonial-style homes that everyone wishes they had.  It was in a friendly neighborhood, with mature trees and rolling lawns.

          But as with most older homes, a lot of work was required.  At 2:00 in the afternoon, on December 30th, 2012, Kirsten and Eric were working on the remodel of their kitchen.  It was a major undertaking, with floor joists having to be removed and leveled. The Heerdts are formerly from Colorado, therefore, son Russell was busy painting his bedroom Denver Bronco colors.  Daughter Elizabeth was making herself a bagel in their temporary kitchen.  Eric was in the basement using a sledge hammer to beat on the kitchen floor joists.  The vibrations from the pounding knocked over a can of spray paint that sprayed into the water heater.  The center of the house went up in flames.

          The fire was too big for Eric to fight.  He screamed for everybody to get out.  Once outside, with his family accounted for, he dialed 911.  In seven minutes the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department arrived.  Black smoke was roiling from the house.  Kirsten, having worked a night shift, was still in her pajamas.  It was then that they realized their dog, Hunter, was with them, but not their other dog, Lucy.  Kirsten took two steps toward the house when the furnace exploded.  Lucy, as well as a fish, turtle, and a lizard didn't make it out.

          Needless to say, the Heerdt's lives were turned upside down.  But they were safe.  Neighbors took over, and the Red Cross arrived on scene, followed by the insurance company.  The Heerdts were put up in a motel for two weeks.  Then they moved in with friends Tim and Lisa Ockenfels.  

          Although the house didn't look all that bad from the outside, it was a total loss on the inside.  The landmark home would have to be razed.

          The Heerdts found a rental home one block away from their old home.  Ironically, it had also suffered major fire damage earlier in the year, but had been restored.  It wasn't home, but it would do and would be handy for work on their new home.  When the rental house was sold, the Heerdts moved into another rental west of Mt. Pleasant.  It too had been through a porch fire.

          January of 2013 was spent dealing with insurance details.  (The Heerdts stress the importance of having replacement coverage.)  In February the house was demolished.  In March, the decision was made that they would rebuild the two story home at the same location.  The Heerdts liked the neighborhood.  Their lot had mature trees, and the detached double garage was still there.  And it was home.  Ironically, one of the firefighters who fought the fire, Kevin Wellington, became the general contractor.  He stated that it was the hottest fire he had ever fought.

          The Heerdts are doing a lot of the work themselves, like all of the trim work, the floors, the painting and staining.  They went so far as to purchase original old hardwood for the trim.  Eric has a degree in mechanical engineering and is pretty handy.  Both of the kids pitch in.  They all are part of the project, which is the construction of their new home.

          Many people drive by to view the progress.  People they don't even know stop them in the super market and relate how pleased they are that the Heerdts are building a two-story home to replace the old two-story home.

          Fortunately, most of their valuable papers were stored in a bank lock box, and their computers were backed up on the internet.  It was just a matter of downloading. 

          It's been a stressful year for the Heerdts, to say the least.  The kids couldn't participate in a lot of school activities because of working on the new house, but it's a family project that they can all be proud of.

          They hope to be in their new home on February 2nd for a Super Bowl Party (fingers crossed).  Broncos they predict. 

          They will have this home blessed by the church.      

Have a good story?  Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at or visit his website at

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