SPOKANE, Wash. - A Spokane family is struggling to cope with a double loss. First, a local dad narrowly escaped a fire over the weekend, which forced his family out of their rental home, and now thieves are walking off with any property not destroyed in the fire.
The fire tore through the home on the 5,000 block of Maple, near Joseph, on Saturday.
"I never expected something like this to happen to me," Joe Katruska said, who's rented the home with his family for 15 years. "It's surreal; It's almost like a death in the family."
On Monday, a lifetime of his family's belongings was stacked, charred and in shambles, on his front lawn.
"There was a fire that started behind my bed," Joe explained. "I was like 'what the heck?' I started to try and put it out and I jumped on the bed and got up for a second and - with the blankets - it just went whoosh."
Joe's family was already out of danger, outside in the backyard, but Joe said he kept running back in the house to save their belongings. Joe's forearm was covered with bandages on Monday where he said he suffered second degree burns.
By the time crews put the flames out, the fire had gutted everything inside. KHQ called the Spokane Fire Department to find out more about caused the fire but they did not immediately return calls on Monday.
"Ii haven't really dealt with it; It hasn't really soaked in yet," Joe continued.
In the days that followed, Joe tried to salvage what he could but described the home as "a total loss." The fire left Joe, his wife, and their five children - who range in age from 17 to 10 - homeless.
The family had barely begun to process the trauma when they were suddenly forced to deal with another: theft.
"I heard that people were coming and looting but the fire people told me to expect that," Joe said.
With 15 years of belongings to sort through, Joe is still trying to figure out exactly what the thieves stole.
"I would never do anything like that," he said.
Joe has since rented a storage unit to protect his remaining valuables. Plus, a local church has also offered to store his belongings.
In the meantime, the local Red Cross chapter has provided a hotel for the family to stay in for the next few days.
The family is accepting donations. To donate, please call Joe Katruska at (509) 847-8735 or his brother, Steve Katruska, at (509) 496-4597.
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