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March 27--RURAL HOLDEN -- When Kathy Kiener awoke at 7:24 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 29, she thought she heard sleet tapping on her mobile home on Southwest 100th Road.
The popping sound puzzled her, she said.
"It was supposed to be a nice day."
When she got out of bed to look out the bathroom window at the end of the trailer, she did not see sleet.
Instead, when she put her hand on the wall, she felt heat.
"I realized the house was on fire," she said.
After she called 911, she got her dogs and cats out of the house and ran to let three horses out of an enclosure adjacent to the wood-framed metal barn.
"The barn was gone," she said. "The whole thing was just smoldering metal, and the horses were pushed to one side."
The fire did not hurt the horses, but claimed a new $13,000 tractor, a John Deere mower, 1,000 pounds of feed, all her tools, 20 saddles and other tack that she used in her therapeutic riding enterprise.
Two goats that lived in the barn survived burns, she said.
"I saw something black running in the pasture. It was my white goat, Spunky. He was completely black and his face was burned. I thought he might have to be put down."
A small black goat had burns on its butt, she said, but the veterinarian who treated the goats said both will recover.
"I don't know why the goats got burned," Kiener said. "They could get out."
A 17-year-old duck that lived in the barn is the only casualty.
Firefighters identified the cause as electrical but could not pinpoint the starting place in the barn that sat next to her house trailer, she said.
A hay bale she had placed against the trailer to keep pipes from freezing caught fire. Flames spread to the bathroom and into the ceiling of the adjacent bedroom where she slept.
"It was in the attic. That's why I didn't see it," she said.
Staring up at the remains of the bedroom ceiling, Kiener said, "I can't believe the ceiling didn't collapse on me. ... I don't know why I didn't burn up in that room. ... God was here for sure. There's no other explanation. ... I'm so grateful to be alive and that the animals are alive."
Fire gutted the trailer bathroom and the rest has smoke and some water damage, she said.
She also lost her computer, refrigerator and television from the smoke damage.
"I lost a lot of material things ... but all that's relevant is that we're alive," she said.
Estimating her loss at $50,000, she said she had only $20,000 in insurance coverage, which did not include the tractor.
She admits to having a "meltdown" several days later after people who had helped her left. After about 20 minutes, she said, "I put my big girl pants on. I got out of the car and started shoveling ashes."
Kiener, who has spent the past month clearing debris, said people bought and plan to rebuild the trailer.
"I need a change of view," she said. "It scared me."
She bought another trailer that will be moved to a new location on her property.
Until her new residence arrives, she lives with friends.
"In two or three weeks, I'll be in again permanently," she said.
She also plans to rebuild the barn.
"By May 1, I'll have a big barn-raising and housewarming," she said.
"The community has really been good," Kiener said. "I've gotten some help. Now it's the big things" that remain.
She said she has replaced halters, lead ropes and grooming items, but needs several saddles "that fit my horses" and other tack to resume the Bay Acres Therapeutic Horsemanship enterprise that she started in November.
"I just have to rebuild quickly and get back to my life. ... Horse therapy is important," she said.
A fundraiser for Kiener is set for April 12 at the Holden Lake.
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