John Antoszyk’s recreational vehicle wasn’t really for recreation. Sure, he took it to Marion County Lake every so often in the summer, but it’s main purpose was a home-away-from-home for the career construction worker.
“That was supposed to be my house tomorrow night,” Antoszyk said Monday afternoon. Only, it burned up Monday morning.
Antoszyk said he had been working in his 1987 Holiday Rambler Imperial on Monday morning, getting it ready for a Tuesday trip to Tulsa. The furnace didn’t work. He spent Monday morning removing it so he could take it to McPherson for repairs.
Harold Peterson of Lacy RV in McPherson was helping Antoszyk when Antoszyk got a phone call from daughter-in-law Becky Hulett; he stopped the foreman short.
“I guess I don’t need a furnace no more,” Antoszyk told him. “I don’t have an RV.”
Antoszyk said he was certain he “had everything shut down” — including propane valves — before leaving the vehicle behind to get the furnace repaired.
“The thing that baffles (fire marshal Chris Mercer) and me is we might have a fuel source, but we still can’t figure out where the ignition came from,” Antoszyk said. “I just don’t know.”
Mercer said he was going to report the source of the fire as “undetermined” because of the lack of a specific, obvious source.
“It’s more than likely going to be accidental,” Mercer said. “I don’t think there’s any suspicion of wrongdoing, but I couldn’t rule that out completely.”
Marion fire chief Mike Regnier was on the scene and helped put out the blaze. He said the camper’s proximity to the house at 710 Denver St. at the time it caught fire was perilous.
“It looked like if somebody hadn’t spotted it soon enough it could’ve got hot enough to where the house might have caught,” he said.
The smoke billowed up into the high branches of a tree in the boulevard, ice sluicing off the tiny limbs, melting as it pelted the ground. The tree didn’t catch, either.
Antoszyk said the camper’s exterior design helped keep the flames from spreading outward toward the house, which he and his wife, Penny, acquired in September according to deed records.
“It was insured,” Antoszyk said of the vehicle, “but it’s kind of hard to replace a relic like that because they don’t make them like that anymore. It had oak cabinets in it. It was beautiful. It was in really good shape.”
Antoszyk had only owned the camper for a year and a half, he said, but he had taken it on trips to Dallas and Orlando, Florida. For his trip to Tulsa, he’ll need a different place to stay.
“I’ll be hoteling it,” he said. “I have a suitcase. I hadn’t packed the camper yet; all that was in there was some of the tools I would need to take the furnace out.”
Antoszyk said he will miss his camper.
“It was a freak accident, but we can’t really figure out what caused the accident,” he said. “Unfortunately, it just really sucks.”