Fourth generation family hopes to rebuild after wildfire

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BARBER COUNTY, Kan. (KWCH) In a valley sheltered by trees sits a farm that has stood the test of time.

"It's been in the family for 100 years, the house is a little older than that," said Andrew Bell. "Four generation of Bells have lived in this house."

The house was reduced to rubble after the Anderson Creek Wildfire came too quickly to stop.

"I thought we still had a 15-20 minutes," said Will, Andrew's dad. "We maybe had five minutes. It came a lot quicker than I thought it would."

"The fire kind of jumped the creek over here, burned the garden and came up around the house," said Andrew.

Andrew and his dad were there that Friday, nearly a month ago.

"We tried our best to protect it, but a 30 gallon sprayer is not really qualified," said Andrew. "This corner where the chimney meets the house was what caught on fire first and I was here for that. I grabbed this ladder and tried to get it as best as I could with my sprayer."

The two stayed, trying to protect their home, until the fire department told them it was no longer safe.

"We went about a mile away and just watched and waited," said Andrew.

They watched hoping and praying their childhood home would be spared.

"Once the smoke cleared we came down the hill and once we got over that last terrace where you would normally see the house sitting all you could see was the white porch supports and just blackness," said Andrew. "I looked at mom and I said one of the hardest things I've ever said to her. I said 'Mom we lost the house'."

"I think my wife, it affected her a lot," said Will. She had the children here. Each of them."

But like the grass now growing in the ash left behind by the fire, the Bell family too hopes to rebuild.

"It's just fitting to rebuild," said Andrew. "Kind of gives you some hope. Something to look forward too."

The Bell family farm has a history not so easily destroyed.

"I have a lot of good memories in this house and this farm," said Andrew. "I wouldn't trade it for anything."

Andrew's sister wrote about the loss of her childhood home after learning of it's destruction. You can access the blog, find out how to help the Bell family as they rebuild and how to help other families and farmers affected by the Anderson Creek Fire by clicking on the links under 'Related links,' located to the right of this story.