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Community, family, officials pull together for New England farmer who lost home to fire

Arnold Simon surveying his burnt property Tuesday.

Patrons who rushed to the aid of an area farmer after a major grass and field fire claimed his home Monday say he is well.

Arnold Simon, 82, of New England became homeless when ashes from a previous controlled fire reignited into a blaze that engulfed hundreds of acres, about six miles north of New England.

"He's in really good spirits," nephew Glen Koppinger of Dickinson said Saturday. "He's been joking around."

Koppinger added that people from surrounding communities and organizations have stepped in to help his uncle, who seems interested in keeping business as usual.

"Neighbors have brought hay over for his cattle," Koppinger said.

After hearing Simon did not have a place to sleep, a local business put a temporary roof over his head.

"We donated a trailer for him to use," said Dan Porter, owner of Dan Porter Motors in Dickinson.

Dan Porter Motors General Manager Rob Wilkinson added that the trailer will hopefully get Simon by until he can find permanent lodging.

"Hopefully they build him a new house," Wilkinson said. "My brother lost his house in a tornado, so I know how that feels."

Red Cross representatives are also giving Simon an extra hand.

"We gave him an assistance debit card with money for clothing, food and stuff," Red Cross Volunteer Tessa Shumway said.

Melanie Moen, Bismarck Red Cross emergency services director, noticed Simon's determination to stay put, and thinks he will be able to keep living on his property.

"I'm not sure if the cattle are calving right now or what, but he did not want to leave," Moen said. "I believe he will have the means to be able to do that."

Moen added that other individuals are helping Simon out.

"It sounds like a lot of neighbors are reaching out to him," she said.

Moen said it was not easy helping Simon initially because he does not carry a cellphone.

"There's no way to really contact him," she said.

Kyle Koppinger, another nephew of Simon's, agrees.

"I'm hoping that he gets a cellphone at some point in time," Kyle Koppinger said.

Kyle Koppinger added that he wants to make sure Simon is able to handle tax and insurance paperwork because most of the farmer's documentation was lost in the fire. But he said Simon also needs space.

"We didn't want to keep bothering and telling him what to do," he said.

Moen thinks Simon is going to be OK. He may have lost his home, but he has seen love and support from many people.

"It sounds like he's fairly taken care of now," she said.