Structure fire near Geyser

Skelton family loses home - but not hope, faith, or gratitude
Thursday, February 11, 2021
Structure fire near Geyser

Due to a tractor catching fire, the home of Chet and Sadee Skelton was tragically consumed last week. Sean Hoven promptly brought the family a tractor and bale processor the next day so the cows could still be fed. Photo courtesy of Raynesford Rural Fire Department

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, despite their best efforts, four local fire departments were unable to save the home of Chet and Sadee Skelton at the Skelton Ranch. Fortunately, they were able to save lives and prevent the fire from spreading.

Geyser, Raynesford, Stanford and Belt Fire Departments responded to the structure fire, which was started by a tractor near the family’s home.

“We are so thankful for the efforts of these four fire departments,” said Sadee in a heartfelt follow-up conversation with the Judith Basin Press.

Geyser ambulance arrived in case of injury or smoke inhalation, as a preventative measure.

Geyser Fire Chief Clayton Annala was the first emergency responder on the scene. He explained that having an ambulance onsite was part of protocol. Fortunately, nobody was injured.

“By the time I arrived, the fire was already into the attic of the house,” said Annala. “The tractor burned completely to the ground.”

Response Efforts

Rural structure fires are difficult to put out, Annala explained, particularly due to the lack of water and the size of the pumps on the rural fire trucks.

Immediately, Chet and his brother Chad had begun to battle the blaze.

“Chet did not even have shoes on when he and his brother tried to put out the tractor fire,” said Sadee. “By the time the fire trucks arrived, the fire had already moved to the shop and garage, which were attached to the house.”

“We had to get water from the pond,” said Sadee, recounting the emergency, expressing her gratitude for the help they received, and continuing to focus on the positives while coping through the tragic event.

Promptly after calling emergency services, several water tenders arrived at the scene – two from Belt, one from Geyser and one from Stanford. The different fire departments also brought in several brush trucks.

The crew fought hard, but the fire had already spread beyond their abilities to save the home.

Chet and Chad helped Sadee and the couple’s two young daughters, one age 4 and one age 1, be evacuated to a pickup. They were also able to save the family’s four dogs and a cat.

Sadee stayed in the truck, comforting her children, surrounded by their pets, while Chet and Chad were able to save some important items, like the documents stored in the family’s safe deposit box, as well as Sadee’s trophy saddle. Fortunately, the couple had their wallets, Sadee said, so at least they had their identification and ways to get supplies for their family.

Still, so much was lost, nearly everything, except hope and what is most important - family.

“When we arrived, people were carrying things out front door, trying to save whatever they could,” said Annala.

Immediate help

Later that evening, Chad and Carrie Skelton set the family up in their home, making sure the small children had warm beds and comfort.

Sadee, Chet and their two small children are now staying with Shane and Jeri Skelton while the couple works out the details.

“I am still in shock,” said Sadee. “But I am so incredibly grateful for everyone’s help. We’re overwhelmed. The outpouring of generosity and support has been overwhelming. We are so grateful to live where we do. We have an awesome community.”

The very next day, Sean Hoven brought over a bale processer and tractor so the cows could still be fed.

Next Steps

Calving is less than a month away. Sadee said their current plan is to set up a tiny home, like a home made out of a shed or cabin that can be moved in, just to get through calving season.

The couple also plans to set up a container to store donated items until they have a permanent home to replace the home they just lost.

“I know, even though I cannot see it now, at some point a bright silver lining will be revealed, but it is overwhelming right now,” said Sadee. “As we sat in shock the pickup truck, my four-year old daughter comforted me, saying, ‘We can build a new house, mom’.”

How to help

If you would like to help the family through this loss, fundraising accounts have been set up to help the Skelton’s. A GoFundMe account has been set up to help rebuild their home, which Chet himself had built for the family with careful wood craftsmanship. This fundraiser is accessible through https://gofund.me/5f586b8d.

A second fundraiser to help rebuild Sadee’s leather-working business closed on Feb. 9, after exceeding expectations, and almost tripling the dollar amount set out for the goal.

Locally, donations can be made directly to Chet and Sadee Skelton at any Stockman Bank.

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