Holiday fire leaves local stranded

Mike Murphy’s home and possession were burned down in a Dec. 21 fire.

Photo courtesy of Kathy Aery


The holiday rush leaves lots of people feeling overwhelmed. Lewistown’s Mike Murphy shares the feeling, but for a very different reason. Murphy’s home burned down Dec. 21, and he has been working to rebuild what he lost.

Murphy discovered the fire when returning home from his job at Allied Steel. He called 911 immediately, but the building was engulfed.

“By the time they got to the house, it was too hot to go in and save anything,” he said.

The building included the majority of Murphy’s possessions, some irreplaceable. He listed a gun given to him by his father, his mother’s guitar and photos. Murphy’s wildlife mounts and archery gear were also lost.

At least two items escaped the blaze, though: Dowzer and Shadow, Murphy’s dogs.

“They were in a kennel away from the house,” he said. “I would’ve been devastated if they’d been in the house.”

Murphy stayed in a hotel for several days. When a friend returned from a trip and learned of the fire, he scolded Murphy: He should’ve stayed at the friend’s house from the start.

The community’s kindness grew from there.

“The generosity of friends and neighbors was just amazing,” he said. “I’ve got a chair or couch or recliner, but nowhere to put it.”

The donors have reassured Murphy he doesn’t have to rush; they are more than willing to hold onto items for him.

In the meantime, Murphy’s sister has set up a GoFundMe page for her brother’s cause. The website allows people to make a page explaining their situation or cause, which then serves as a hub for donations and other offers of help.

 Carol Woolsey posted a comment on the page offering furniture. She doesn’t know Murphy well, but met him around town, and describes him as quiet, hardworking and well-mannered person. Woolsey also likes dogs, and was delighted when she met Murphy’s.

“I’m such a dog lover, and sometimes I saw him with his labs,” she said. “He introduced them to me.”

Woolsey recently remodeled her house, and when she heard of Murphy’s need, she knew what to do with some of her unneeded items.

“I thought, ‘Well jees, I’ve got all this extra stuff,’” she said.

Community kindness continues to help Murphy replace what he lost, but finding housing with two pets has been hard. He is hopeful that will change this spring, though. Murphy’s landlord, Howard Kolstad, has talked about getting something rentable back on the property.

“We haven’t finalized anything yet, but it’s looking really good,” Murphy said.

Kolstad has rented to Murphy for roughly a decade.

“I’m hoping to get something for him,” Kolstad explained. “I don’t know exactly what it’s going to be, it hasn’t gelled yet, but I’m working on it.”

Kolstad is willing to put in extra effort for such a good, reliable tenant.

“He got a tough break, he’s a good tenant and that’s my nature, to help him out if I can,” he said.

Murphy is staying with friend for now, and doing his best to continue with life as usual. While it’s not the best situation, he has been comforted by the kindness of others.

“A great huge thank you to everyone who’s donated stuff and for the support,” he said. “It’s hard to describe the feeling it gives me. Small town anywhere is the place to be.”

A helping hand

If you’re interested in helping Mike out, or want to learn more, visit the GoFundMe page at:



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