Courier Staff Writer
A New Year’s Eve house fire has left a man homeless.
Just after 1 p.m. Monday, the Ottumwa Fire Department received a call of smoke coming from a trailer at the Golden Arrow Trailer Court on East Mary Street.
“The trailer was fully engulfed upon our arrival,” said Assistant Chief Mike Craff. “When we came off the highway, we could see flames.”
As soon as the firefighters arrived, they began looking for signs showing whether or not someone was home; the initial caller just wasn’t sure.
“We talk to people, look for vehicles in driveways. We couldn’t determine [with certainty so] two firefighters entered to fight fire, and two entered to search for, what at that point, would have been a victim,” Craff said.
The structure was filled with thick smoke, and while no firefighters were hurt, a flashing flame did burst up and hit one of them. The assistant chief said he was thankful property owner Rob Miller of Ottumwa was not home.
But with the amount of smoke and fire damage, the trailer is considered completely destroyed.
“Our biggest concern [was] if somebody is inside,” said Craff, “then exposure of [nearby] properties.”
A second trailer was on one side of the burning one, and a house was on the other side.
The Southern Prairie Chapter of the American Red Cross has been asked to help the resident. They typically are able to provide three nights of shelter while the fire victim attempts to seek alternate housing.
The fire remains under investigation, Craff said, adding they are not yet sure what may have caused the fire.
Craff said as winter progresses, he worries about residents getting enough warning to escape a burning home.
“We didn’t hear any smoke detectors going off at this structure,” he said. “Maybe this is a good time for reminding people about smoke detectors and fire safety. On New Year’s, they can put in new smoke detector batteries.”