Community support gives victims of Nora Springs blaze ‘a chance to start over’

By James Grob,

A little over a week ago, all was lost for Doug and Julie Salisbury.

Today — thanks in large part to the kindness and generosity of the Nora Springs and Rockford communities — there is hope everywhere.

“We were wondering how we were going to even survive, and the response has just been overwhelming,” Julie Salisbury said. “I cannot even fathom all of the help we are getting.”

The Salisbury’s house, located in the 1200 block of 140th Street, just outside of Nora Springs, burned down Saturday, Feb. 2. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

The Nora Springs Fire Department responded to the fire, and was assisted by the Rudd Fire Department, Rockford Fire Department, Floyd Fire Department, Charles City Fire Department and Marble Rock Fire Department, as well as Nora Springs Ambulance. They fought the flames for five hours.

The house is a total loss, as are all the Salisbury’s 31 year’s worth of accumulated belongings. The only piece of furniture that survived was a 3-drawer dresser that once belonged to Julie’s grandmother, more than 100 years ago.

“It’s a little charred in one corner, but it’s the one thing we were able to save,” Julie said.

Doug, who works at AgVantage FS at Nora Springs, was the only person in the home when the fire occurred. He said he heard a whooshing sound and went to check it out. He peeked in the basement, and upon seeing flames a few steps down, he escaped, unharmed, and called 911.

The Salisbury’s son, Sawyer, was at his girlfriend’s house when the blaze erupted. The Salisburys have an adult son Nick and adult daughter Kaycee who no longer live at home. Doug and Julie also have two grandchildren.

The family cat, Biscuit, was lost. Biscuit had belonged to Julie’s mother, who died of leukemia. Her mother had asked Julie to take care of Biscuit after she passed.

“Biscuit is lost,” Julie said, fighting tears. “I keep hoping that maybe she somehow escaped the house and ran off, but I don’t think she could have survived all that smoke.”

Julie, who is a sports and news reporter for the Nora Springs/Rockford Register, was covering the sectional wrestling tournament in Britt when the fire happened.

“I had left my phone in my camera bag,” she said. “I had 25 missed calls, all people trying to tell me about the fire.”

She said that a Britt policeman who was also at the wrestling tournament received a message, and he approached her and asked if she was Julie Salisbury.

“Honestly, I thought it was because of my parking. You can never find a parking spot at those tournaments, and I thought he was going to ask me to move my car.”

Instead, the police officer said, “Everyone is OK, but your house is on fire, and you need to get ahold of somebody.”

Julie drove back to Nora Springs from Britt in the Saturday evening fog, crying the entire way. When she arrived on the scene of the fire, the help started coming.

“Somebody came out and just handed us a room key,” Julie said. “They said they had a hotel room reserved for us. I don’t even remember who it was.”

The Salisburys stayed in the room for three nights, but were quickly informed of an area house for rent, and the family was able to move into it last Tuesday.

The rental house was furnished, in large part, by the community.

Julie said that, among other things, they were given a king-sized bed, a queen-sized bed, all the necessary furniture, a television — and the kitchen cupboard is full of food.

“If you walked in right now, you’d think we’d been living here a year,” she said. “Total strangers have been giving us checks, money and food.”

The help continues to pour in. Julie said that Monday morning this week an elderly neighbor in a walker called her over and asked, “Is there anything in my house you could use?”

When he heard that there wasn’t, he wrote out a check for her.

Another neighbor dropped off a card full of money collected at church services on Sunday morning.

“It’s unreal,” Julie said. “My son’s orthodontist gave him Hy-Vee and Target gift cards. Can you believe that? His orthodontist.”

The Rockford FFA has been collecting money at the doors of the elementary and high school each day since the blaze. The local 4H chapter is holding a spaghetti supper to raise money for the Salisburys.

Julie said she is also aware that both of the school districts she covers in her job as a sports writer have something in the works later this month, although she doesn’t know exactly what. Several other organizations in the region have stepped up to help.

“I never knew that many people even knew who we were,” Julie said. “We are very fortunate.”

Sawyer played on RRMR football team that made an impressive trip to the state finals this past fall, and his coach and athletic director are looking into replacing the medals and awards lost in the fire.

Julie also works in the library in the Central Springs School District, and she said she has been astounded by the support from the school, especially the students.

“I spent more time crying over the notes I’ve been getting from the kids,” she said. “Everything everybody has done for us brings me to tears.”

For Charles City-area residents who are interested in helping, an account is being set up for Salisbury fire relief at First Security Bank. People can contact the bank and inquire as to how to contribute to the account.

Fire inspectors looked at the remains of the house on Friday and were not able to determine the cause of the fire. As of Monday morning, their insurance company cleared the Salisburys to start cleaning up, and they’re planning on putting a new home at the same location. The hope is to be ready to move in by the summer.

“We are so lucky we live in a rural community, where the people are so caring,” Julie said. “We have been given a chance to start over.”