Brussels Family Loses Everything to Two Fires within 24 Hours

A GoFundMe page has been established for the Chuck and Kandi Bretl family, whose members lost everything when their Brussels home burned to the ground this week.

“Everything inside, including the family dog, Luna, and a family of six kittens, were lost,” wrote Dawn Starr, a lifelong friend and neighbor of the Bretls who established the fundraiser for her friends. “If this was not enough for this family, in the early-morning hours of Feb. 9, they lost a shed on the same property that housed the remaining items.”

Those included a truck, tractor and two vehicles owned by their daughters, Ally and Katie. 

Members of the Brussels Union Gardner (BUG) fire department were dispatched to the 1681 Pitt Road residence at 2:40 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 8. Upon arrival, they found the house fully engulfed in flames and starting to collapse, according to Jim Wautier, BUG assistant fire chief. 

“It was a big, two-story home, and the top floor had already burned and was falling down into the basement” by the time they arrived, Wautier said. “I think the tin roof kept the fire in the house longer because it couldn’t burn through it.” 

A GoFundMe page has been started for the members of the Bretl family, who lost their home to fire on Tuesday and their pole shed on Wednesday. 

The home is also located on a dead-end road where everyone in that neighborhood works during the day, including the Bretls, who work for the Algoma School District. 

“It was actually a construction worker down the road who saw the smoke and drove down and called,” Wautier said.

They put the fire out – that took 31 loads of water, and each load is 2,000 gallons – and then returned again around 12:30 am on Feb. 9 to put out a small fire that had reignited in the corner of the basement. 

“Because it was burnt so bad, and the tin [from the roof] was covering a lot of stuff in the basement, it was a hard time to get it out,” Wautier said. “We had to pull the tin off.”

A few hours later, at 4:38 am, they were again dispatched and found the 30-foot-by-50-foot pole shed completely engulfed in flames. A neighbor had called in that fire.

The shed was about 80 feet away from the house, and Wautier said they had inspected it numerous times. They had last checked it around 1:30 am, walking around it three or four times after stamping out the reignition in the basement. 

“We figured it had to be some hot embers from the house fire before [that] had got into the tin and sat on a piece of wood and got that [the pole shed] started 10 hours later,” he said. 

Wautier said the cause of the fire was not suspicious, but it is undetermined.

“As bad as the home was burned, I don’t know they’ll be able to pinpoint it,” he said.

The Bretls did burn wood, Wautier said, and would throw a log or two on before heading to work, as they’d done for 30 years.

“In this day and age, you don’t see total losses anymore,” Wautier said. “But when you get there and it’s already totally gone, there’s nothing to save. It’s hard.”

For the time being, the family has moved into a relative’s home about a mile away. 

The BUG Fire Department was assisted by the Southern Door, Sturgeon Bay, Casco and Luxemburg fire departments; Door County EMS; the Door County Sheriff’s Department and Wisconsin Public Service. 

The department thanked everyone who provided food and water to the firefighters on the scene.