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Benefit planned for survivor of recent house fire

Gary Poppenga, 75, of Lennox, SD, died tragically Tuesday morning, October 10, 2017 from injuries he received in a fire at his home.

His wife, Martha was able to make it out. She said she woke to the smell of smoke in the early morning hours of Tuesday, October 10th.

She was in the bedroom sound asleep when just before 1:00 a.m. she realized something was happening. She knew her husband, Gary was asleep in the living room and she went to check on him in the smoke filled home. All she could see in the living room were small flames and lots of smoke. She called out to him, but he never answered.

At that point Poppenga knew she had to get out; she called 911 at 1:01 a.m. Using the landline in her home, she walked toward the porch door as far as the cord would allow to give the operator the details while trying to get to the fresh air outside. She dropped the phone and got outside to safety, waiting for the emergency personnel to arrive.

Poppenga said the fire departments and ambulance were on scene shortly and she was appreciative of all they did.

“Thank you to the Chancellor, Lennox, and Parker Fire Departments and Ambulances,” Poppenga said.

Poppenga confirmed they had smoke detectors in their home, but she hadn’t checked the batteries. She tries to do that every October following Fire Prevention Week, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

The fire started in the northeast corner of the living room on the main floor.

Turner County Sheriff Byron Nogelmeier reported the investigation is closed with the cause of the fire undeterminable.

Poppenga said, “There’s so much damage.”

She estimates that she will have to rebuild the home because of the extensive damage inside. Poppenga plans to stay on the property. She has lived there for 34 years. She and Gary had been married for almost 28 years. Her husband was an amputee and got around in a wheelchair. He was asleep in a regular chair when the fire broke out.

Poppenga added that when she heard no response from him, she wanted to go and help him, but she said, “With the flames I couldn’t do it.”

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