Richard Switzer and his wife, Dee Dee, have lived in the same single-wide trailer at 2121 Front Ave. NE in Albany since 1986 and have “never had a problem.”
But their luck changed for the worse earlier this week. While they were away Tuesday evening, they said, their home was broken into and vandalized.
Less than 24 hours later, at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, a fire broke out in their kitchen. Between the fire and smoke damage, the trailer was believed to be a total loss.
The Albany Fire Department responded with 22 firefighters, Division Chief Scott Cowan said. They extinguished the fire and found heavy smoke damage.
According to Cowan, an Albany city employee drove past the property before firefighters arrived and attempted to make entry to put the fire out but was prevented by heavy smoke. That person's name was not available.
The Switzers, their 16-year-old son John and his girlfriend, Kasara Koerntgen, were home when the fire broke out near a microwave. No one was injured.
A day earlier, someone entered the family's home through the back door and caused extensive damage, according to Richard Switzer.
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“We had been visiting a pastor, and we dropped John off at the house about 5:30 p.m.,” he said. “Dee Dee and I were going to Walmart to buy John’s Christmas present. He called us and said water was everywhere.”
Switzer said the couple “raced home” and found the back door wide open. It had previously been shut and locked.
Vandalism inside the trailer was extensive. Switzer said someone had run the water line from the refrigerator's ice-maker into a soap dispenser placed on the kitchen floor, sending soapy water all over. Bathroom sinks were plugged up and water was overflowing. Someone also placed detergent tabs in the dishwasher until it overflowed with suds. Sugar and flour were dumped into the water.
“It took us four hours last night to clean up,” Switzer said. He added that the family was still cleaning Wednesday when the fire broke out.
“It’s a total loss, and we don’t have insurance,” he said. “The trailer has been paid off for years, but we don’t have insurance.”
Switzer, who is disabled, said the family has no place to live, although the Fire Department worked Wednesday with the Red Cross to get them vouchers for a local motel.
“We’re thankful no one was hurt,” Switzer said. “We don’t have any pets. Physical things can be replaced.”
The vandalism was reported to the Albany Police Department and is under investigation.
Anyone who might be able to assist the family may contact Switzer at 541-974-5944.