It was a little over a year ago, Feb. 19, 2007, actually, when a fire swept through the office and machine shop area of Woodworkers’ Tool Works. Owned by Robert Knourek and located in the town of Franklin, it was the first time the company’s operations had been shut down since World War I. It began in 1907.
The fire alarm went off around 5 a.m. Feb. 19. Dakota Knourek, Robert’s son, was the first one to hear the alarm. He ran outside and was able to move all of the vehicles and equipment away from the fire. Dakota was 14 years old at the time.
The family’s prize-winning bird dog, Woody, had been sleeping in the office that night. Robert had gone into the burning office building to try and get Woody when he gave up, realizing he had to get out.
“Dakota convinced me to go around to the other side of the office where there was another window,” recalled Robert. “We could hear a sound inside so I went in through the window. I shouldn’t have gone in but when your son is standing there and you can hear your dog, I knew I had to try and do something.”
Robert said while struggling with the heavy smoke, he was able to find Woody. “I got lost in the fire and smoke, though,” remembered Robert. “Dakota kept yelling so I could find the window. I got Woody to the window, and Dakota helped me get him out as I pushed and he pulled.”
Once he got outside and discovered the dog wasn’t breathing, Robert blew into Woody’s nostrils.
After escaping and recovering from a dangerous situation, Woody is back hunting again. The national champion bird dog’s only issue - he doesn’t like being left alone, and he never sleeps alone anymore.
It was determined the fire started after embers from a pellet-burning stove ignited dried grass.A metal building containing the business’s custom equipment was destroyed in the fire after the fire spread and managed to get inside the structures walls.
“Our office was in that building along with five generations of family records and heirlooms,” said Robert. “The firemen focused getting all of our belongings out. They formed a line and just kept hauling everything out.”
The Taylor Fire Department fought the blaze for 6 1/2 hours. One firefighter did have to be taken to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation and fatigue. The Melrose and Black River Falls fire departments provide mutual aid.
Woodworkers’ Tool Works is up and running again. After a year of thinking back and realizing things could have been a lot worse, the Knourek family wanted to say, “Thank you,” to the firemen that went way beyond the call of duty that morning. Members of the Taylor Fire Department were Knourek’s dinner guests last week. On the menu was prime rib. After dinner, Knourek took them on a tour of the new construction.
“Everyone had a great time, and they were all happy to see that Woody had fully recovered and how much he enjoys all the special attention,” said Knourek.
“What they did that day to save what they were able to – I was very humbled,” shared Robert. “We could not have done what they did for us. It meant a lot to me.”
(this article was reprinted from the Banner Journal newspaper.)