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Crookston family starting over, with help after Saturday fire destroys home

The living room of Crookston residents Ellen and Karl Lokken is black and melted from smoke and heat radiating from a fire that started in the nearby kitchen early Saturday morning. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
Karl Lokken takes one last look at his house before heading to Grand Forks to move into a hotel with his wife Ellen. Early Saturday morning a kitchen fire broke out in the Lokkens' home while they were out of town. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

It’s both the most tragic and amazing thing that Ellen Lokken said she has experienced.

In the wake of the fire that badly damaged her and her husband’s Crookston home early Saturday, a donation fund has been set up for the young couple by local community members.


“So many people are helping us and so many people we barely know,” Ellen Lokken said Monday, fighting through tears. “It’s just so amazing, the kindness that’s been shone on us.”

Karl and Ellen Lokken were away with family for the Fourth of July holiday when they got a call from a neighbor early Saturday morning. They came back to their home, located at 215 Lincoln Ave., to find much of the inside damaged by fire, smoke and water.

“Everything we own is damaged in some way or another,” Karl Lokken said. The couple lost three cats, including a kitten that was just purchased on Thursday, in the fire.

He said it appears the fire started in the kitchen, and he doubts they’ll be able to move back there, based on the damage inside. Ellen Lokken said they remodeled much of the house since moving there three years ago, putting in new carpet, flooring and windows.

“We were just starting out. It was our first home,” she said. “And to have so many people care and be so kind, it’s just amazing.”

The couple, both in their late 20s, married six years ago. Ellen is a fourth grade teacher at Highland Elementary School and Karl is working on his electrical engineering degree at UND.

Karl served in the U.S. Navy, where he worked on a submarine. Ellen was in the Minnesota National Guard and Air Force Reserve.

For now, they’re looking for a place to rent while they wait to hear back from their insurance company, Karl Lokken said.

In the meantime, a donation fund has been set up in their name at the local Bremer Bank. Ellen Lokken said the fund was set up by St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Highland School.

“Anything we can do to help is only going to make it an easier situation for them,” said Chris Trostad, who is the new Highland principal.

“There are people who want to help,” Trostad added. “Especially when you find out they served your country.”

“It’s encouraging,” Karl Lokken said. “We’ve had tremendous outreach from friends in the area and in the community.”

How to help:

Donations to the Lokkens can be made to:

In care of Lokken Family Fund

Bremer Bank

201 N. Broadway

Crookston, MN 56716

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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