The Ottumwa Courier

February 17, 2014

Firefighters save house

Courier staff writer

---- — CHILLICOTHE — A couple says they feel fortunate that firefighters arrived at their home when they did.

"We noticed the fire at about 1:30 a.m. [Monday] morning," said Barbara Stevens. "A Wapello County Sheriff's officer was walking up to our deck as we hurried out to see if we could put the fire out before it got worse. He saw the smoke and had already called it in. Thank goodness."

It wasn't their home but the shed right next to their home.

"Even though they couldn’t save the shed, they for sure helped save our home," she said. "The wind was blowing the flames and heat directly to our home."

They saw it get so close the siding on the house began to melt. If the Eddyville and Wapello County fire departments hadn't arrived when they did ...

"We were very lucky," Stevens said. "We know living out here they can’t get help to us as quick; that was why Bob was shoveling snow on the blaze, but the officer told us to just get back. It was out of control quickly, and [the tool shed] fully engulfed by the time responders got here. But they put water on it and knocked down the blaze so our house didn’t get more damage."

Eddyville firetrucks actually arrived pretty quickly, having just come from another call nearby, Stevens said. Wapello County wasn't far behind, she added. They did a wonderful job, she and her husband stated, under pretty uncomfortable conditions: The weather was below freezing while the volunteers worked past 4 a.m. and at one point, a freezing rain began to fall.

"So many years of memories went up in smoke, but would have been much worse if the home had also," Barbara Stevens said. "We purchased this property in 1968 and all through the years of marriage, we always bought each other things we needed for our home. Tools for [Bob] to work on the building of all four [structures] here. The original house he completely remodeled, then built the new house in 2000."

Those beloved tools, along with Barbara's gardening tools, are gone. She stressed to the Courier that they're not seeking donations from friends and neighbors after the fire; they're insured. The Stevens' stepped forward, they said, to let people know what kind of firefighters these departments are staffed by. And to send a "thank you."

"Our hats are off to those ladies and gentlemen," she said.

News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark