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Crosby couple thankful to be alive this Thanksgiving

CROSBY - John and Jan Young have no house. A fire claimed most of their clothes, their pine wood furniture and loon figurines they've collected for nearly two decades.

Jan and John Young, standing in front of the burnt out shell of their home, talk about how thankful they are just to be alive after the fire. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)
Jan and John Young, standing in front of the burnt out shell of their home, talk about how thankful they are just to be alive after the fire. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch)

CROSBY - John and Jan Young have no house. A fire claimed most of their clothes, their pine wood furniture and loon figurines they've collected for nearly two decades.

Their home of 14 years, where they would have hosted a family Thanksgiving dinner today, has been reduced to charcoal.

Still, this holiday, the great-grandparents are especially thankful for one thing: their lives.

"I'm thankful (Lee Irvine and Kirk Anderson) did what they did," Jan said.

"It's because of them we're alive," John said.

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Oct. 20 started off like any other Monday. John and Jan, both 74, were sleeping in their bedroom at their home in Crosby. Their 19-year-old granddaughter, Jess Young, who lives with them, slept in a nearby room.

At about 6:30 a.m., Jan heard intense pounding on her front door, followed by a doorbell, more knocking and hammering on her window.

Thinking something was wrong or someone was in trouble, Jan slipped a pair of jeans on and hurried to the door.

There, she found Irvine.

"It looks like you've got a fire," he told her, pointing to the garage.

Drowsy and in shock, Jan peered out her window and saw smoke.

"Fire!" she called out.

Jess called 911, woke her grandfather up, grabbed her phone, and got out of the house.

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Irvine first saw the start of the flames as he began morning deliveries for Precision Performance Products, a business across the street from the Young's house.

He doesn't know the family well, but knew something was wrong.

"The fire started small, but it was dark and no one is around," he said. "(Warning them) felt like the right thing. People's lives are in the balance. Anyone would have done it, I think."

Just as Jan first saw the flames, Irvine's coworker, Anderson, was arriving at work. He was quickly flagged down by Irvine to come help.

Anderson moved the two Jeeps out of the Young's garage.

Jan grabbed her purse and shoes before being escorted out of the house by an officer, who was nearby when he heard about the fire.

"I was a shaking mess," she said.

All the family could do was stand by and watch as the flames reached higher than the roof.

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Tears fell as Jess watched the fire spread through the house she grew up in.

The cause of the fire might never be known, the couple say.

Today, the house on First Street is a charred reminder of the "worst day" of the Youngs' lives.

Mere fragments of the garage lay in piles on the yard. The connected house has a thick layer of black on each of the inside surfaces. Part of the ceiling is caved in.

Gone are the custom made wood furniture pieces, the 62-inch TV is melted, as is Jan's prized kitchen where she spent hours cooking.

"This was my domain. It's not anymore," she said.

A suffocating smoke smell still lingers.

The couple gets emotional when they revisit what's left of the falling walls of their once home.

"It makes me sick. I get nauseated, because I know where everything was," Jan said.

Still, despite their losses, each of the three Young family members are thankful.

Jess is thankful for Irvine and Anderson.

"I don't think we'd be here without them," she said. "They deserve everything from our family."

Both men were recently awarded certificates of merit by the mayor at a city council meeting.

The men say they're grateful for the award, but were just doing the right thing.

"When you see a fire, you gotta go help out," Anderson said. "I assume others would do the same if it was my house."

John says the family is lucky.

Lucky that Irvine drove by at that exact moment. Lucky that he took the time to pound continuously on their door.

Sure, they've asked "why us?"

But as they sit down today for a holiday dinner at a local restaurant, they'll smile.

Jan and John young still have their four kids, 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

They still have each other.

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