House fire in Blanding claims man’s life, looters take what remains
by Kara Laws
On the morning of Wednesday, January 24, an explosion took place in the home of James Kensley in Blanding.
The explosion happened when Kensley, who was on oxygen, lit a cigarette. The concentration was higher than usual, and the oxygen caught fire.
When James’s son, Michael, came to investigate, he could not get his father moved to get him out of the home. While Michael attempted to call 911, the fire reached the oxygen tank and subsequently the tank exploded.
The explosion took the life of Kensley and severely damaged the home. Miraculously, Michael survived due to stepping outside, to escape the smoke while trying to reach 911.
Michael was depending on first responders to be able to help him get his father moved out of the home. When first responders did arrive, the exploding oxygen tank had already taken Kelsey’s life.
Michael was transported to Blue Mountain Hospital where he was treated for smoke inhalation, minor burns, and shock.
The home was left in shambles. Michael’s grandfather visited the home and boarded up the windows and entrances for his grandson. But by the time Michael was able to return to the home, the house had been looted.
Everything salvageable, from guns to clothing, had been taken or destroyed, leaving nothing behind.
Michael Kensley lost his father and his home in one morning. By the end of the week he had lost most everything he owned, including some beloved pets.
The Kensley family has filed a police report in hopes of recovering any of the stolen items and encourages anyone who saw anything to call the Blanding Police Department.
The Kensley home was not insured and Michael, the only child of James, is left with the responsibility of clean up, as he mourns the loss of his father.
Michael’s mother stated that right now, the plan looks like they will level the home, and try to make the lot suitable for another family to build on.
She hopes that selling the lot will give her son a little bit of money to have a fresh start.
Michael’s aunt set up a GoFundMe account after the home was looted in hopes of raising enough money for him to at least be able to purchase clothing.
The GoFundMe was set with a meager goal of $500, but by Sunday night, donations from friends, family, and strangers had almost tripled that goal.
The Kensley family has said they are overwhelmed by the kindness and support of their neighbors, even in the face of the looting. Many have called, stopped by, and asked how they can help.
The family expresses one of the biggest needs will be to take care of what remains of the home.
They plan to clean out the yard and parts of the house to prepare it for demolition on Saturday, February 10 at 9 a.m.
If you are still looking for ways to serve them, or a way to help lighten the load of this huge undertaking, the family will be thrilled to welcome any volunteers.
The home is located on 400 West in Blanding, just north of Center Street.
James Otto Kensley’s memorial service will most likely take place over spring break.