The Ottumwa Courier

October 22, 2013

Oct. 16 blaze raises structure fire total to 35

JOSH VARDAMAN
Ottumwa Courier

---- — OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Fire Department has been far busier than usual this year with structure fires.

According to Fire Chief Tony Miller, a house fire they reported to Oct. 16 was the 35th structure fire they have been to this year. In 2012, they went on 34 during the entire year and just 32 in 2011.

“I’ve been here over 32 years, and I don’t remember ever having this many,” Miller said.

Although he does not know the actual number as far as a record for structure fires in a year, this year has been far greater than any year in the past. With the winter months still to come, which generally bring more fires, he sees the number growing even higher.

Because people have to somehow heat their homes, wood furnaces and other heating units have to be turned on. Heating systems that are older or that haven’t been properly maintained have a greater potential to cause structure fires.

As far as a reason to why there have been significantly more structure fires this year, Miller said there isn’t a lone cause.

“It’s just one of those years where we can’t pinpoint a reason,” he said.

He explained that there have been fires all over the city, not just in a secluded area. The fires are also being started by a variety of reasons, even arson in some cases. In one instance from earlier this year, there were five fires in a matter of four days, according to Miller. The randomness of the structure fire locations and causes makes it very difficult to come up with exact reasons why there have been so many this year.

With the coming winter months and the foreseeable need to turn on heating systems, Miller says to take the proper precaution to try and avoid structure fires. Cleaning out a heating unit and making sure it works properly before you trust it to heat your home is a good way to avoid having a fire in your home and a good way to keep the firemen at the firehouse.

To see reporter Josh Vardaman’s Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh