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Bertha man's bad luck as his farmhouse burns down, loses job and wrecks his truck

BERTHA - Josh Johnson has had more than his share of bad luck already this year. The rural Bertha man learned Friday that his job was being cut, but an even more terrible blow fell Saturday.

Johnson, 21, lost a 36x210 foot building which housed not only himself, his family and his livestock, but also his farm equipment and most of the material for a home he was planning to build this spring.

Because of the unique arrangement, which enclosed living quarters, storage and livestock, the Johnsons had been unable to acquire insurance on the grounds that their dwelling did not fit into the normal parameters.

"Josh is a very wonderful young man who has worked very hard all of his life," said his mother, Rania. "This has been very tough on everyone."

Josh, who owns the farm, was coming back from a shopping trip to Brainerd on Saturday when he came upon the fire. No one in the family was on the farm when the fire started. The Johnson household consisted of Josh, his sisters and his parents.

The home materials included windows, doors, toilets, fixtures, sinks, tubs, showers, appliances, lumber, carpeting, insulation, sheetrock and more, all planned to be used in the spring construction of a home.

The livestock consisted of more than 40 milking goats, a large pen of butcher hogs and a large flock of laying hens, which the Johnson sisters owned. All of the animals died, including some house cats.

"We loved our animals and we loved our possessions but we've got to think about the positive things," said Rania, pointing out that no one in her family was killed or injured.

"We've still got each other," she said.

The loss has been determined at more than $390,000. The state fire marshal's office has investigated the fire but has not yet been able to determine a cause.

"We can't figure it out and the state fire marshal can't figure it out," Rania said.

The Johnsons are presently residing in a home that Josh owns near Wadena.

Rania said her family is self-sufficient, and they'll be OK, and hoped something positive can come out of the situation. She reminded people to update their smoke alarms and take precautions.

Josh's bad luck did not end Saturday, according to his mother. On Monday, while en route to a job interview, he was involved in traffic accident and wrecked his truck.