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Man’s Cry After Losing Family In Fire: ‘It Should Have Been Me’

February 29, 1996

HURLEY, Wis. (AP) _ Scorched and bloody after failing to save his family from a burning home, Kirk Foley staggered through the snow for help and let out an anguished cry: ``Nobody made it out but me. It should have been me!″

The blaze that raged through Foley’s log home early Wednesday in a wooded area of northern Wisconsin left his wife and five children dead.

Foley got as far as the kitchen with two of his children but lost them after he broke windows to escape and an apparent backlash of flames blew him outside. The raging fire kept him from getting back inside.

In his underwear in zero-degree weather, he could only sit in a van and watch as the flames engulfed his home with his family trapped inside.

He then found some coveralls and ski boots in his barn, ran a half-mile to his closest neighbor and pounded on the door.

``I didn’t recognize him at first. He had blood on his face,″ Mike Abelson said. ``He said, `Help me, help me. My house burned down.″

``I asked him, `What about his wife and kids?′ He said nobody made it out.″

And Foley kept repeating, ``It should have been me. It should have been me.″

Killed were Nancy Foley, 33, and the couple’s five children: 8-year-old Kelly, 7-year-old Tim, 5-year-old Katie, 2-year-old Lauren and 5-month-old Sean. Their bodies were to be retrieved today.

Foley, 41, a lawyer, was hospitalized in fair condition.

The tragedy left many in the community in shock.

``He just lost his family. ... Half the day we have been numb and the other half it has been sinking in,″ said Ricky Alvey, her eyes welling up in tears, as she worked at the Hurley Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fire Chief Paul Mullard said he had no idea what started the blaze. There was a wood pile in the basement and a fuel oil tank near the home that probably was used for heat.

Abelson said Foley told him that his wife woke him after smelling smoke. Foley said he was crawling through the kitchen with Katie and Tim when he broke some windows and the kitchen burst into flames.

By Wednesday afternoon, all that was left of the home was smoky rubble on a rock foundation.

The family car and van sat just feet away, hardly damaged, but a snowmobile was reduced to blackened steel. Christmas lights were still strung on a telephone pole; a swingset sat in the yard covered in snow.

The family dog, which apparently had been tied out back for the night, was brought to Abelson’s home, where it sat barking and looking nervously down the road.

At Giovanoni True Value Hardware, manager Greg Loreti said the community will try to help Foley deal with the tragedy.

``What can be done? Heaven knows. It is such a reality check,″ Loreti said. ``It chokes me up.″

Update hourly