OTTUMWA — It was luck that saved the lives of two Ottumwa grandmothers this weekend.
Luck and an 8-year-old girl. If the child hadn’t come to visit Grandma and had not been up late, there was no way the sleeping family would have known the house was on fire.
“They had no working smoke detectors,” said Mike Craff, assistant fire chief for the Ottumwa Fire Department. “If it hadn’t been for this 8-year-old girl being up and awake, I don’t know that they would have made it out of there.”
Assistant chief Rick Kleinman says he knows. They wouldn’t have. Kleinman was at the scene of the fire, which occurred at 531 Osceola Ave. around 3 a.m. Saturday.
“The grand daughter, Zoe, went to spend the night with Grandma. She was in the front room watching TV in the wee hours, and Grandma went into the kitchen and cooked something,” said Kleinman. “The grandmother sat in a recliner and fell asleep. Great-Grandma was asleep in the back room.”
“The fire started in the kitchen,” added Craff, “and that’s where the only entrance was. The other one was blocked.”
Zoe Phillips, 8, had to act fast, both firefighters agreed, for everyone to get out that one door in a room that was starting to burn.
“She was pretty sharp for that age,” Kleinman said. “The granddaughter may have climbed out a window, but Grandma wasn’t climbing out a window, and Great-Grandma wasn’t climbing out any windows. We would have had two fire fatalities. She didn’t panic. She woke them and saved her grandmother and great-grandmother’s lives.”
As it was, the grandmother, who first tried to extinguish the fire, was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation treatment.
The OFD was able to contain the fire to the kitchen.