WATERTOWN — Donations are being sought to help a pair of Watertown-area families whose homes recently were ravaged by swift-moving fires.

The first fire occurred on the morning of May 11, killing an older pet dog and causing approximately $120,000 damage to a single-family home at 917 Sand St. No people were injured.

According to the Watertown Fire Department, it received a call from the Watertown Police Department dispatch center at 9:42 a.m. May 11 about the blaze. The fire department reported that, when it arrived, the home was filled with smoke.

There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians and the occupants were able to get out of the house safely, along with three dogs.

The family has been displaced by this fire and the American Red Cross is assisting them, as are friends who have set up a donation network.

One of that home’s owners, Nicole Habeck, is a mother of a baby and 5-year-old daughter. She said the experience began as a person’s worst nightmare and grew more terrible when her family’s insurance company became unreliable. She said, however, it has morphed into something different — a reassurance that there is innate good in humanity.

Habeck and her fiance’, Deakin Gallagher, said they have received incredible help from strangers in Watertown, as well as from a Facebook community entity called Watertown Unconditional Give and Take and the Community Action Coalition. Their other family members are also helping out, but they continue to seek donations of money and clothes to help them rebuild their lives.

Habeck said their insurance company has performed poorly on what turned out to be an incorrect home insurance policy. This has added to their myriad problems.

“We don’t know the ins and outs of all this, because we have never been through it before,” Habeck said. “Everything in the house was severely damaged.”

“The insurance company has been giving us hell,” Gallagher said. “It’s a lot to deal with, but we want to pay this forward when we can. We don’t want a new house with marble counters. We just want something that we can live in.”

The second fire occurred May 18 in a trailer on Serenity Oak Terrace in the service area of the Lebanon Fire Department. The Watertown Fire Department also was called to the scene.

According to Jackson D. Provance of Watertown, a truck driver with Spoerl Trucking of Ixonia, his friend, Ryan Baker, is among those spearheading pursuit of donations for the family affected by this second fire. Provance said that Baker is a neighbor of the family whose home was destroyed.

“The family is currently staying in Oconomowoc, at a hotel near the Roundy’s Distribution Center,” Provance said.

Provance said the family is in good spirits, in light of what he called a “terrifying experience.”

“Last Friday, we had a big gathering at Spoerl Trucking (in Ixonia). It was a gathering of drivers with the family and we let them know what we had been collecting in terms of furniture and clothing,” Provance said. “For going through all of that, such a terrifying experience, their spirits are very high.”

He said a GoFundMe site is at $665 and another fund is over $2,000.

“Last weekend, my family gave them $900 in gift cards and another $1,500 has been raised for them in cash donations,” Provance said.

There have been donations of beds, dressers, microwaves and other home items, as well.

“Several drivers volunteer and we will drive out and pick items up from you and bring it to our location for storage temporarily,” Provance said. “Spoerl Trucking is allowing us to store stuff there and once it gets to be a good amount we will put it into a trailer until the family can rent a new place. They are looking at Watertown and Wales as possible places to live. The husband works at a concrete company out of Wales.”

Provance said he and others who have been working to get donations to the family have been pleased with how things have gone in the desperate time of COVID-19 pandemic.

“They should be able to get back on their feet fairly soon,” Provance said. “They have been diligent in taking down everyone’s names to send ‘thank you’ cards and they have been back to the home to take part in the cleanup and investigation.”

To donate, visit GoFundMe or call Provance at 715-429-0077 or Spoerl Trucking in Ixonia at 262-569-7718.

Provance and others also are helping Habeck and Gallagher, whose home on Sand Street was destroyed.

Gallagher said the Watertown community has been great through the early rebuilding process.

“The support and kindness, locally, has been overwhelming,” Gallagher said. “We are making some headway.”

To contact Gallagher and Habeck to make donations, call (262) 244-9399.

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