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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 25, 2014

Woman wakes occupants in danger of fire

By DAVID HOTLE | Jul 09, 2013
Photo by: DAVID HOTLE/GTNS photo Washington firefighters work to extinguish a blaze that destroyed a garage at 502 W. Third St. The garage and all its contents and a car in the driveway were destroyed. The sides of the house and a neighboring house were damaged.

WASHINGTON, Iowa – (GTNS) Washington Fire Chief Tom Wide said Monday no cause of a fire that destroyed a garage and damaged two houses and an outbuilding early Saturday has been determined and the extensive damage to the garage will make finding the cause difficult.

Firefighters were called at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday to 502 W. Third St. in Washington to reports of a garage fire. On arrival, the garage was fully engulfed in flames, and the fire was spreading to the main house, a neighboring house to the north, and an outbuilding to the west. Wide said as much as trying to save the garage, firefighters were busy trying to keep the fire from spreading to the other buildings. He said that contrary to initial reports, there hadn’t been an explosion.

“What I think people heard was a sound from the car that was parked in the driveway of the garage,” he said. “It may have been the glass in the car breaking or a tire blowing out. It could have been any number of things.”

While the garage was a total loss, Wide said, damage to the house was contained to the exterior of the building. He estimated there to be about $20,000 damage to the house and another $5,000 to the neighboring house, but said he believed both houses can be repaired.

Eric Redlinger, who has owned the house for about 18 months, said he was in Des Moines when the fire had occurred. He said that two of his friends, who are living at the house with him, were there when the fire began.

Two people and one dog were asleep in the residence at the time the fire. Neighbor Summer Anderson said today that she was taking a shower before going to a Cardinals game. She said the lights in her house started flickering, prompting her to look out the window. She saw the garage of the house engulfed in flames. She called 911 to summon the fire department and, wearing only a robe and flip-flops, ran to the house to try to wake the occupants. She said that she pounded on all the doors and windows trying to wake anyone up.

“It was a sick feeling,” she said today, her voice still hoarse from yelling during the fire. “It was a sick feeling knowing they were in there and you couldn’t get them out.”

Redlinger said that Anderson tried to kick the door in. She confirmed it, saying that she had attempted to break in the door in her flip-flops.

Anderson said she managed to wake up the dog inside the residence. The dog, in turn, woke the occupants. One look out the back window of the house and they got out immediately. She said that the dog played with her dog in her garage while the fire was being extinguished.

“It made me feel fantastic when they finally came out,” Anderson said. “That was one of the scariest things I have ever done.”

Modestly, she said she didn’t do anything that any other neighbor wouldn’t do.

Redlinger said that he spent the morning on the phone with the insurance company. He said the adjustor is coming to inspect the remains of the garage. Once the repairs are made, he plans to move back in.

He said a car parked in the driveway, which belonged to one of his friends, had been destroyed. Also lost in the fire was Redlinger’s pride and joy – a Suzuki DRZ-400. He said that it was an older motorcycle in excellent condition and that money wouldn’t be able to replace it. He said it took 18 months to find it.

“The main thing at this point is that everyone made it out fine,” Redlinger said. “I’m trying to think positively that no one was hurt and that stuff can be rebuilt.”

Both Anderson and Redlinger complimented the efforts of the Washington Fire Department. Anderson said that fire crews began arriving within three minutes of her calling. Redlinger said that he has seen pictures of the fire in which the flames rose higher than the buildings around it. He said the feeling on the scene was that the house would also be engulfed.

“The firefighters did an amazing job, that they came in and got it under control and saved the house,” he said.

Wide said that the call as the fire was just picking up had been one of the main factors that allowed the department to get it under control.

“If we hadn’t gotten the call when we did, it could have engulfed the house,” he said.

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