Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 21, 2014

Young family loses home to fire Saturday

By DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND, Ledger staff writer | Dec 31, 2012
Photo by: DONNA SCHILL CLEVELAND/Ledger photo Fairfield fire chief Scott Vaughan, right, Brett Ferrel, left, and Lyle Hannes inspect a singed power cord today among the damaged remains of a West Briggs Avenue home. Vaughan said he hopes to determine the cause of the fire, which destroyed the home of a young Fairfield couple early Saturday morning. Royce and Crystal Mallinger and their two young children had escaped safely from the house by the time the fire department arrived on scene at 2:40 a.m.

A young Fairfield couple lost their first home in a fire Saturday morning on West Briggs Avenue.

Royce and Crystal Mallinger woke up at 2:30 a.m. to the sound of frantic barking from the kennel by the kitchen where their two American bulldogs slept.

“Our dogs saved our lives, they raised all kinds of hell,” said Crystal Mallinger. “My husband went down to check on them and thought someone was trying to break in. He looked through the kitchen door and everything was engulfed in flames.”

Crystal Mallinger, 26, pulled her 3-year-old son Ryker and 5-year-old daughter Cassidy from their beds and ran to their neighbor’s house across the street. Royce Mallinger met her there with the dogs.

Minutes after she called the fire department, they arrived on the scene.

“It seemed like years, but it was just a couple of minutes,” she said.

The family watched from their neighbor’s home as the fire tunneled from the porch into the kitchen.

“It was our first home we bought as a couple,” she said. “That’s where we built our family.”

Fire chief Scott Vaughan said there was a “portion of the house fully involved in fire” when he and 16 firemen arrived on the scene at 2:40 a.m. Within 45 minutes, the department had controlled the fire completely. Vaughan said the home is likely irreparable.

“It definitely sustained heavy smoke and water damage,” he said.

Vaughan visited the house today to investigate the cause of the fire.

“The area of origin was the back porch,” he said. “We will have a better determination in the daylight to look things over.”

The morning of the fire, Vaughan said he didn’t meet the family until after they’d extinguished the flames.

“They were pretty calm,” he said. “They were just happy everyone made it out OK.”

Crystal Mallinger said one fireman came to check on her and the kids upon arrival— her uncle, Rusty Muntz.

“I wasn’t positive he was on call that night, and with all the smoke I couldn’t really see,” she said. “When he realized it was my house, he dropped everything and found me and made sure the kids were OK … he was a big support.”

While the family is grateful to be safe, they said it is difficult to face the road ahead. The family has insurance to help purchase a new home, but won’t recoup appliances, furniture, clothes or any other belongings. Hardest of all, she said, is losing items with sentimental value.

For her, that meant losing all of her family photographs. For her son Ryker, it was losing his favorite toys, and his “Iron Man” DVD.

“My son loves Iron Man, and he kept asking for his “Iron Man” DVD,” she said. “We went in the next day to get it, and it was melted to the DVD player.”

Seeing their home in the daylight, she said the kitchen and porch were completely destroyed, and all of the rooms left standing were blackened and melted.

“We worked for everything we had, we built the fence around our house ourselves,” she said. “It’s hard to explain to the kids that we have to start over.

“I’m just overwhelmed, and I’m trying to keep strong for the kids.”

She said her family is staying at her mother-in-law’s house in the country while they make plans. She said they’re trying to keep a sense of normalcy, going back to work today, Crystal at Copperfield Chimney Supply, and Royce at Fairfield Castings LLC.

Already, the family has received phone calls and offers to help from community members and the Southern Prairie Chapter of American Red Cross in Ottumwa, which serves Jefferson County.

“It’s overwhelming to know there is so much love in this community,” she said. “People want to help us who don’t even know us.”

While the family already has received clothing and toy donations, she said they are still in need of essentials such as blankets, pillows, coats and food.

Donations may be sent to the family at 2251 256th St., Fairfield 52556 or left at the Fairfield Burger King.

“We’ve been through a lot … and we have definitely hit rock bottom,” she said. “We’re going to hang in there for our kids and take it day by day.”

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