It was sometime after midnight Friday, January 20 that Gordon and Susan Martens were awakened to find their downstairs bedroom filling with smoke. They didn’t know what had awakened them but later Susan thought it might have been the smoke alarm.
Lisa Martens was upstairs in the washroom when she heard the alarm and opened the door to have heavy smoke pour in. Susan and Gordon went to the east door of the house where Susan struggled to open the old wood door. She said Gordon said something to her and turned back into the room. She managed to open the door and ran around the back of the house in stocking feet on the cold hard ground to see where the smoke was coming from. When she turned around Gordon wasn’t behind her and she called for him but didn’t find him outside. She ran to their truck and started it up and honked the horn over and over to guide Gordon to her.
During this time their daughter Lisa struggled downstairs, disoriented from the smoke and coughing heavily, found her way out the east door. She had grabbed a garden hose to try to put out the fire but gave up. She and her Mom drove three miles north to Dale and Jan Eliason’s farm where they woke them up and Dale called 911. It was around 12:30 a.m. at that point. Susan had left Lisa behind and drove back to the house to try and find Gordon.
Dale took Lisa back to the Martens home where he found the west mud room entrance of the house fully ablaze. He walked the yard and barn area calling for Gordon. Jan notified BJ and Christy Boot and they all showed up in the yard within ten minutes after Dale, and called out for Gordon, trying to see into the smoke-filled living room of the house through the open door. At this point embers were starting to fall down from the ceiling into the middle of the house.
Both the Outlook and Hanley Fire Departments responded to the blaze. But the old wooden structure dwelling went down quickly with the majority of it collapsing in on itself sometime after 2:00 a.m.
The pumper trucks had to refill at the Glenside Water plant a number of times through the morning where Mayor Kerry Greig arranged to bypass the user/pay system to fill the tankers.
Although the Martens family sadly lost Gordon in the fire, it was noted that there was no wind that night and because of the tin roof on the home large flying embers were kept to a minimum which probably saved the barn and the rest of the old sheds and wood structures in the yard.
After being treated onsite by Outlook EMS, Susan and Lisa didn’t want to go into hospital. They stayed with Dale and Jan Eliason for six hours, where they found they were congested and coughing a lot. A follow up call to EMS advised that they go to the hospital and Susan’s daughter Sally and husband Shawn who had arrived from Hague, Saskatchewan took them to the Outlook Hospital to be further treated for smoke inhalation.
Susan and Lisa, through a provision by the Red Cross, stayed at the Irrigation Motel until January 22 . They then moved into a home on North Cross Street, which was provided by a friend of the family, Lee Genereux . Christy and B.J. Boot organized the set up and furnishing of the house through contacting neighbours, friends, a Rural Bible Study group, Alliance Church members, Hanley Mennonites and Facebook.
Many people phoned in to offer help or provide donations even from as far away as Saskatoon, Torquay and Hanley. The whole house was completely furnished through donations with excess donations given to a recent Outlook fire victim, Shelly Kilgore. Due to the outpouring of support BJ and Christy said that they had to turn a lot of donations away. Christy said, “It was absolutely amazing and overwhelming what people did and wanted to do. And I truly believe that that is what a small-town community does, that we do take care of each other. And I pray that we continue to do so in the future.”
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the Martens, and cash donations can be dropped off at AG Foods and Co-op Grocery stores. The Hanley Mennonite, Bethlehem Lutheran and other churches have set up a benevolent fund to help the family. There was an incredible outpouring of good will from the whole community and area with many phone calls offering help in any way they could.
On January 23 Garry Genereux , Dale Eliason, Peter Gonnet, Marcel Vermette, B.J. Boot and other friends helped move cattle and sheep to new accommodations until they can be dealt with at a later time.
The funeral for Gordon Martens will be held at the Outlook Alliance Church on Thursday at 1:30 p.m. Burial will follow at the Hanley Mennonite Cemetery.