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Dent family displaced by fire; home a total loss, but three adults, two babies make it out safe

Michael and Tara Thompson and their two young children, as well as Tara’s mother, Mary McLaren, safely escaped a fire that engulfed their Marion Lake home on Friday. Two of their three dogs did not survive. Submitted photo

It's a miracle that Tara Thompson woke up when she did.

It was the middle of the night, and she immediately sensed that something wasn't right. The smell of smoke was in the air.

The Dent wife and mother of two young children got out of bed and opened her bedroom door, looking out onto the living room and kitchen, and that's when she yelled.

She yelled at her husband, Michael, to wake up. And after he saw what she had just seen, he yelled, too. He yelled for everybody to get out of bed and get out of the house — fast.

The Thompsons could see that the kitchen cupboards above the stove were on fire, and the flames seemed to be spreading quickly.

Michael ran to get a fire extinguisher while the rest of the family — Tara and her mom, Mary McLaren, and the couple's kids (3-month-old daughter, Elianore, and 15-month-old son, Joshua) — dashed outside into the cold, in their pajamas, piling into the family van to keep warm. Temperatures that night got down to about 20 degrees.

Two of the family's three dogs ran into the house, presumably looking for Michael, who was unable to get to a fire extinguisher in time but did get himself out safely.

Unfortunately, the two dogs didn't find him, and they never made it back out of the house. The third dog survived.

"I'm so glad that I woke up when I did," Tara told the Focus. "All of us got out right in the nick of time... Literally two more minutes and we wouldn't have made it out. It was scary."

Tara said firefighters came right away, but nevertheless, the Marion Lake home, near Dent, couldn't be saved. It was a total loss. None of the Thompsons' possessions survived.

More than 30 firefighters responded, from the Dent, Perham and Vergas fire departments. Perham EMS was also at the scene.

Curt Seifert, the Dent Fire Chief, said they were called to the home at 3:16 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 10, and when they got there, the main floor was already fully engulfed in flames.

"It moved along really fast," he said of the fire. "With what we had to work with, from the time we got there...we got it extinguished in the best way we could."

Seifert said no firefighters were injured in the blaze: "Everyone went home safe. I thought it (the firefight) went as well as it could."

Tara said the Thompsons are grateful for the hard work of the firefighters, as well as "everyone who has donated anything to us" since that night.

She also thanked her in-laws, Roger and Kevette Thompson, who are letting the family stay with them in Ottertail until they rebuild the Marion Lake home this summer. Tara and Michael were renting the home from Roger and Kevette, the home's owners. Tara's mom, Mary, was renting a downstairs apartment in the house.

Tara says she's not sure what made her wake up at that unusually early hour — "it just all happened so fast" — but she's very glad she did.

"It's like I kicked into 'survival Mama Bear mode' and just ran out," she said. "My husband only had shorts on, my mom only a T-shirt and underwear, my daughter had a gown on, I had a tank top and sweats on and my 1-year-old son only had a T-shirt and diaper on. We just had to get out of there!"

A friend who lives nearby, Mary Nordbeck, brought blankets for the family shortly after their escape.

Perham Health assisted the Thompsons with supplies for the children, and the Salvation Army also provided assistance.

The family has a Go Fund Me donation account set up to help them get back on their feet and rebuild. Visit and search for campaigns in Dent, Minn., to contribute.