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DCTC, other organizations helping family recover from devastating home fire

Imagine if your house burned to the ground. Imagine the chaos that would follow.

Imagine how upside-down your life would be turned.

These days, some people freak out if they so much as misplace their cell phone.

Losing your home, your cars and everything else you own -- from the clothes on your back to your food and your children's toys -- would be a much bigger deal. It's something no one wants to imagine.

Unfortunately, Santiago and Shadell Sedillo don't have to imagine it. It happened to them. They're living it. They didn't have a choice.

Until November, the Sedillos were enjoying life. The couple and their two toddlers, Santiago Jr. and Nevaeh, moved to Minnesota last year. The Sedillos came to Minnesota for job opportunities and had settled into a small home in a trailer park in Apple Valley. In addition to raising their children and holding down jobs, the Sedillos are taking classes and working toward their degrees at Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.

Life was very busy, but life was good, nonetheless.

Then came the evening of Nov. 8.

The Sedillos and their two children had gone to sleep for the night when they heard a smoke detector go off. At first, they figured it was a faulty battery causing the alarm to sound. But when Santiago went to check on things in the living room, he quickly learned how serious the situation really was.

The next thing Shadell heard was Santiago yelling for her to call 911 and grab the children.

"I started shouting we have to get out of here now, there's a fire," Santiago said. "I looked out there and everything was engulfed in flames already. The whole place was burning."

The Santiagos scrambled to call 911 and evacuated the trailer with their daughter, but could not find their son. Santiago went back in through the flames to look for his son. He found the 3-year-old hiding under his sister's toddler bed. He pulled the boy out and everyone managed to escape without injury.

It was a whole different story for the trailer, however.

The Sedillos stood and watched as their home burned to the ground. It was a total loss, as was everything inside the home. They lost all their clothes. Their money. Their food. Their vehicles were both damaged in the fire. Their lives had been pulled out from under their feet in a matter of seconds.

Since the Sedillos moved to Minnesota from Colorado, they had no family to turn to for help or, at the very least, shelter. They didn't know where to turn.

Life has been extremely difficult for them ever since, but there is at least a spot of light at the end of the tunnel now. So many people have stepped forward to help them get food and clothes and other necessities. But, at one point, they were running extremely low on cash. They were dependent on donations from friends and others just to pay for the hotel room they have been staying in since the fire destroyed their trailer.

Last week, Dakota County started kicking in money to pay for the Sedillos' hotel until they find another trailer. They are making arrangements to refurbish a trailer to live in, but will need some money to make the necessary repairs. In the end, it will be a newer trailer than the one they had before, but it will take some doing to get there.

In addition to trying to find a place to live and the money to do it, the Sedillos have their two children to think about. They are scared and confused. The Sedillos are trying to continue with their schooling at DCTC. They're trying to hold down jobs while juggling everything else that's going on.

"I didn't know what to do at first, Shadell said. "It was so overwhelming. We were so tired and everything we had was gone. It's like nothing you can imagine. Everything really was gone."

Somehow, the Sedillos have managed to remain afloat. They have continued their schooling, caring for their children and are close to getting out of the hotel they are in now. And they have received a ton of support along the way in order to make that possible.

In addition to the county paying for their hotel now, the American Red Cross has helped provide clothes and shoes. The South Twin Cities Church of Christ in Lakeville paid for their hotel for a few nights and has paid their cell phone bill. Community Action Council provided the family with a Thanksgiving food basket and Cub Foods gift certificates. DCTC even pooled its resources and found a way to get the Sedillos new textbooks and cover their tuition until they are back on their feet.

Want to help?

DCTC has set up a special fund for the Sedillo family. Anyone interested in donating to the fund can call DCTC at 651-423-8301. The Sedillos can also be contacted at 952-220-7166 if you are interested in helping.

"It really has been chaos, but we're so thankful for the people and organizations that have helped us," Shadell said. "There's still a really long road ahead, but we're just trying to get into a trailer and at least have that part of our lives become normal again."