Minot couple seeks recovery from July 3 house fire
Minot couple seeks recovery from house fire
When Sam Kampman retired from the Air Force in 1978, he and his wife, Betty, returned to North Dakota to build a new house southeast of Minot with the help of their sons.
This past July 3, at 2 a.m., a fire of unknown origin started in their garage. Awakened by a smoke alarm, Kampman, 82, crawled out of bed, expecting to have to fetch his grandson, who shared the house, to change a malfunctioning alarm’s battery. Then he smelled smoke. Betty Kampman, 78, looked out the window and saw flames.
The rapidly spreading fire forced the Kampmans and their grandson, Devin Kampman, to flee for their lives once notifying the fire department. Damon Atkinson and Payton Laffertey, a young couple driving by on U.S. Highway 52, also called in the fire and stopped to help Sam and Betty get safely away from the house. Devin Kampman rescued a cat and worked to remove two vehicles from the garage despite heat so hot it already had begun melting the vehicles’ plastic parts.
As the Kampmans stood watching the fire consume their 3,000-square-foot home of 43 years, another grandson and his wife, firefighters Philip and Katie Kampman, arrived with the first truck from the Sawyer Fire Department. The younger Kampman couple fought the fire alongside other members of the Sawyer, Minot Rural and Velva departments.
The fire left a shell of a house, with no garage and with water and structural damage. The elder Kampmans, escaping with not much more than pajamas and their glasses, were dazed.
A benefit fund for donations was set up at US Bank.
“Their insurance has been very helpful,” said their son, Dan, who came from his home in Washington to assist his parents. The benefit fund was in response to the number of people wanting to help a family that has helped so many others through their church or individual generosity, he said.
“They’ve been in this community, contributing to the community,” Dan Kampman said of his parents. “Those people know how big of community members they’ve been with helping others.”
A Glenburn native, Betty Kampman has been a Mary Kay beauty consultant for 43 years in the Minot area.
A native of Missouri, Sam Kampman is a Vietnam veteran and member of Minot’s VFW and American Legion. Kampman, who was an aircraft mechanic in the Air Force and for many years did the same work as a civilian at Minot Air Force Base, also had worked for a time in between in construction.
The Kampmans said they are unsure yet whether they will be rebuilding their home, located about 10 miles from Minot. They and Devin have been living in a hotel and planned to move into an apartment this week.
Betty Kampman said she’s had to swallow her pride to be at the receiving end rather than the giving end of help, but she appreciates the efforts of the firefighters, the couple who stopped to help the night of the fire, a friend who purchased new clothes for her, her fellow Mary Kay consultants who brought over beauty supplies and others who have offered help or encouragement.
The Kampmans lost nearly everything, including the different decorations that had been part of Betty’s significant holiday displays. They still have hope of salvaging many of the sentimental and collectible items that Betty acquired during their travels while in the military.
Betty Kampman said the instability of the house’s remains has made it difficult to retrieve items that might be saved. However, they have reclaimed a few items, including one that made son Dan chuckle.
“One of the things they pulled out of there was a whole file cabinet, and he (Sam) showed me, ‘Oh, look. Here’s your first-grade report card,” Dan Kampman said.
“We are trying to make some humor out of it. You just can’t sit and feel sorry for yourselves. We’re trying to be positive,” Betty Kampman said.
“It’s really quite a thing to watch your home burn and then your grandchildren fighting the fire,” she added. But she said the family has been through tough times in the past. Sam’s year in Vietnam, leaving Betty to care for their three children, was a challenging time, as was the typhoon they experienced in Guam.
“We survived that,” Sam Kampman said.
“And we have a strong faith. We believe the Lord has watched over us so far,” Betty Kampman said. “We believe the Lord is watching over us and helping us to be stronger and face each day.”