Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Sturgeon Lake family displaced after fire


Lois E. Johnson

The charred shell of Theresa Dobosenski and Dan Duresky's home in Sturgeon Lake is all that remains after a fire October 14.

Theresa Dobosenski and her partner, Dan Duresky, were digging through the burned-out shell of their home on Sunday, finding the remains of possessions that had once been sources of pride.

"I built that table and benches out of white ash in the kitchen," Theresa said. "It's 10 feet long and big enough to seat the whole family around it."

Theresa's sister, Angie, dug through the debris with a three-pronged claw and found the bottom of what had been their grandmother's trunk.

"She had it full of children's drawings and other mementoes," said Theresa. "Now those are gone."

Thesesa grew up on that farm. Her father, Bennie Dobosenski , explained that his father had bought that 160 acres of property, bordered by the Willow River. Bennie was born there in 1941. He grew up in another home up on the hill, and he and his previous wife, Betty Ann, had built this home in 1967, where they raised their family of five daughters.

The home is located on Dobosenki Road, just off of Dago Lake Road between Willow River and Sturgeon Lake.

Theresa raised her children, Shawna, 27, and Ryan, 22, and Dan and Theresa raised his daughter, Kelsey, 23, in that home. The couple is now raising the youngest of their children, Colton, 10.

The morning after the fire, a family member, Missy Jorgenson, and Theresa were looking in the back window into the storage room and found a flat tote. In the melted tote was a charred plastic bag that contained the only outfit Theresa and Dan's first son had worn at the hospital. He had been born with no lungs and did not live.

"That's all that I wanted from the whole house," said Theresa. "Today I pulled the outfit from that plastic bag. That's all that I have left of little Danny's. He would have been 12 now."

Theresa's tears have been flowing often and neither she nor Dan has been able to sleep since the shock of losing their home on Wednesday, October 14.

"We're homeless," said Dan, as he stood on the lawn, looking at the charred remains of their home.

The couple had been away from home, working at their jobs, when Theresa received a call from Sidne Liljadahl, Ryan's girlfriend, from their home nearby.

"I went to let the dog back in around 2:15 and saw the smoke," she said. "I called Theresa at work, and she called 911."

Theresa has been employed by the DNR at General Andrews Nursery since 1988, and Dan works in Duluth at a company that installs commercial carpets and flooring.

"I didn't believe her at first when she told me that there was smoke coming from our house," Theresa said.

The DNR, Sturgeon Lake, Willow River and Moose Lake fire departments responded to the call and saved the home from burning to the ground. But the damage was done, and the home cannot be repaired. Theresa and Dan said they haven't decided yet what they are going to do.

"Our insurance man said that the fire had started in the electrical panel in the basement," Theresa explained.

A symbol of how they were protected was found in the charred remains.

"We were looking at our burned-out home the next morning and saw something cream colored hanging on the wall. It stood out because everything else was charred black," said Theresa. "Dan went to get a better look and saw that it was the crucifix and praying hands plaque that had first belonged to my parents. It had always hung there in that house. To me, it meant that Jesus was protecting us. We weren't home when the house burned and are safe."

Theresa had been reluctant to be interviewed but decided that this was an opportunity to thank everyone and to warn others about safety.

She writes:

"We'd like to thank the Moose Lake, Sturgeon Lake, Willow River firefighters and the DNR for their hard work and dangerous jobs. We want to also thank Aaron Borchardt, a Pine County sheriff's deputy. He was the only police officer that had come.

"We want to thank all of the family and friends that came to kneel by us and mourn - even to the littlest kids - that held our hands and said that everything would be all right.

"I would also like to thank the people that came to help right away: Sandy Mortenson for getting Colton and bringing him to us, and all of my sisters and friends for all of their generosity that came to our aid with clothing and other needs that same day.

"Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to the firefighters and everyone else that came to help that first day and since.

"When I was at Mass today, Father Bob was filling in and speaking about how we should think of others before ourselves and to serve others and be humble. He said that we should be there for others.

"'That's what we do,' I thought to myself. 'We always do that. It comes naturally to us to help in a time of need.'

"And now we are seeing how friends and family have come to us in this terrible tragedy, our time of need. But is it a tragedy? My boys are safe, and Sidne and Rylee are safe!

"We'll be OK. We lost all of our material possessions in our home and our house but we have our lives. We have each other.

"Lives can't be replaced. Ryan could have died when he was inside, crawling on the basement floor. The smoke and the toxins could have taken his life but he is here.

"That is my blessing. He is here and OK.

"Our guns and deer mounts and blankets and our cowboy boots and western hats all can be replaced, so we'll be OK.

"I want to tell others to check your fire escape plan with your children, and check your batteries in your smoke detectors. Have fire extinguishers. Be aware of the fire dangers.

"Our house was old but it was home. There are so many memories. This is so sad.

"The farm house is no longer here but we have each other!"

Donations of clothing and other items can be left at Dave's Oil in Willow River.

Theresa wears tops in large or larger medium, jeans in size 7/8 and shoes in size 8.

Dan wears tops in XXL, jeans in size 36/34, and shoes in size 12.

Colton wears boys tops in size large, 8 to 10, jeans in 8 regular, and shoes in size 6.

Theresa, Dan and Colton are staying at the Rapp's family cabin on Passenger Lake on Dobosenki Road for a month until the cabin has to be shut down for the winter.

"Many people offered a place for us to stay but this is what we chose because it's close to home and feels like home," Theresa concluded. "We would like to thank the Rapp family for their kindness."

Monetary donations can be sent online to


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