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Picking up the pieces: Huntley Project family recovering from house fire

Desiree Coles & Andrew Gartside
Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 21, 2023

It's been almost three months since a Huntley Project family lost nearly everything they own in a house fire, and they are still trying to pick up the pieces.

Desiree Coles and her family have had a trying past couple of months.

"We're just trying to take it one day at a time," Coles said. "That's all we can do pretty much."

The family's trailer burned down in December, and every day since has been a challenge. The family has since destroyed what was left of their home, and the plan is to burn the pile of debris.

Coles said it's emotional to see their family home as a pile of rubble.

Pile of Rubble

“It’s kind of hard," Coles said. "I think we’ll get closure when we finally burn it down and get rid of it."

Coles' husband Andrew Gartside has a different opinion. While it started off as an emotional situation, he said he's ready to have the pile removed from their property.

"When I was first doing it, it was pretty emotional," Gartside said. "But now, I just want to get it done and get it over with so that we can keep moving forward like we've been doing."

And the fire couldn't have hit at a worse time for this family. Not only do they have five kids living on the property, they own 13 acres and care for more than 60 animals — all of which began birthing about a week after the disaster happened.

"We knew we were going to want to get back on our property because we knew we were going to start having babies right directly after. And we pretty much did," Coles said.


Fortunately, Gartside's boss let the family use his camper, giving them the opportunity to stay on their property during their stressful time.

"We've been lambing since January and calving just started here about three weeks ago," Gartside said. "It's kind of nice to just be here."

Two of the children have been staying in the family shop, which, according to Coles, used to be where her grandfather lived. The other three have been staying inside the cramped camper with their parents, but you won't hear any complaints from Gartside.

"It's been a pretty big blessing to have his camper," Gartside said. "It's small, but it works. We really appreciate it."

And that's just one of the many generous acts this family has received from their community. Clothes and meals were donated immediately following the disaster, and on this upcoming Thursday, a fundraiser will be held at Blue Cat Bar in Huntley where Desiree works.

“Words don’t even explain how thankful I am, actually," Coles said. "Community has been awesome and helping us out and having our back. Just making sure we have everything we needed."

The family is now waiting for a new side-by-side to be delivered from Minnesota. Weather permitting, it should arrive in the next few weeks. Until then, they will continue to take everything one day at a time, and they said they are grateful for each one.

“I don’t know if we would’ve been able to do what we’re doing now without all the help and support and everything that has come together to help us,” Gartside said.