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April 15, 2014 | 04:41 PMGENEVA — Dan Truttschel covered numerous house fires during his 14 years in the editorial department of the Lake Geneva Regional News, but “I’ve never been to a house fire before that was mine,” he said on the phone Monday night.
On Sunday at 2:30 p.m., a fire destroyed the former sports/associate editor’s home and much of his belongings at N3239 Sycamore Road, town of Geneva.
“It’s just unbelievable,” he said, about watching the blaze. “I can’t even describe it, the mindset I had. Utter sheer panic and terror, because you can’t go back in. Helplessness.”
But others wasted no time in reaching out to Truttschel, 42, who is well-known in the community far beyond his days as an area journalist.
Currently, he’s an assistant coach at Wilmot High School; a substitute teacher at school districts in Wilmot, Lake Geneva and Williams Bay; and a bartender in Lake Geneva. He’s also an occasional guest on 96.1 WLKG sports programs.
Despite the trauma, Truttschel said he still showed up to softball practice in Wilmot Monday afternoon.
As it happens, people at the high school were waiting.
Students surprised him with two bags of clothes, cards and gifts.
Others have given him donations and kind words.
“It’s amazing what a small town does,” Truttschel said. “I can’t thank everyone enough.”
He said his phone has been ringing nonstop since the fire.
“A complete stranger walked up to me today and wished me well.”
Another couple he’d never met helped him at the scene of the fire.
Truttschel has two cats, and when he returned home and saw the smoke billowing from his home, he said he rushed to open the front door. When he did, the cats escaped.
But the couple recovered Cosmo, his 15-year-old cat, and took it to an area veterinarian.
The cat pulled through, said Truttschel.
Currently, Trutschel is staying with friends in the Lake Como area.
He’s still looking for his orange and white cat, Cleo.
Although he said he lost items that commemorated the state championships won by teams he’d helped coach, “I still have those memories.”
Elkhorn and Lake Geneva fire departments responded. Geneva Police Chief Steve Hurley said the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department also assisted one of his officers.
Elkhorn and Lake Geneva fire departments, town of Geneva police and the Walworth County Sheriff’s Department responded to the blaze Sunday.
Elkhorn was there for about two hours.
“When we arrived on scene, we had fire showing from two sides of the building, out the windows,” said Elkhorn Fire Chief Rod Smith.
Between 30 and 35 firefighters responded, Smith estimated, and three engines, a ladder truck, a squad and an ambulance were deployed.
“It was a good knock-down by our firefighters,” he said. “We made a nice stop on the fire.”
The fire hadn’t reached any nearby homes because it didn’t have time to spread.
“There was a house to the north, but the fire was to the south side,” said Smith. “The homeowner had left approximately an hour to an hour and a half before the fire, and when he returned, he found the fire.”
The cause remains under investigation, Smith said.
“As far as I know, the house is going to be demolished,” Truttschel said. “Now I’ve got to figure out the next step.”
But Monday “was a better day,” said Truttschel, and he’s “very, very, very thankful.”
A fundraiser is in the works, he said.
Robert Ireland contributed to this article.