Oelwein FD fights second house fire within 24 hours

Firefighters battle a blaze that fully engulfs an empty Oelwein house Monday. (Photo courtesy of the Oelwein Police Department)

Oelwein firefighters were called back to action Monday (Feb. 13) to a second house fire within 24 hours.

The 1 1/2 story house at 632 5th Ave. SW was destroyed by the fire, but no injuries were reported. The home was unoccupied, according to Oelwein Police.

Gawkers, however, caused problems.

“Our dedicated fire members responded to our second house fire in less than 24 hours” Public Safety Chief Jeremy Logan said in a news release issued Tuesday morning. “I am proud of their efforts and commitment for the safety of our community. To the contrary, I am again extremely disappointed in the selfish need to drive to/by a fire by some of our community members over the safety of our first responders. This ‘I have to go see it/I have to video it’ belief places our members at risk by hindering their response, distracting members during the response, and taking resources away from the response.”

According to the news release, the Oelwein Fire Department was paged at 5:35 p.m. to a fire on a porch. The caller reported that the front porch was fully engulfed. Upon arrival by law enforcement, officers observed fire in the front half of the residence. Neighboring properties were evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters determined that the structure was unsafe for entry and attacked the fire from the exterior.

No one was living at the residence at the time of the fire. There were not any injuries and the structure is considered a total loss.

Fayette County property records list the owner as Ellen Rogers, of Waynesville, Missouri, and also the house destroyed Monday was built in 1908 and listed its condition as “very poor.”

The news release specified how gawkers put emergency responders at risk. Community members refused to move for fire personnel and apparatus that were responding, vehicles were attempting to drive around barricades and fire apparatus, and vehicles were observed driving over firehose, Logan said.

“While (fire department) members and officers were not in an immediate position to address each of these illegal actions, we have developed a plan to provide a concerted effort to address these violations in the future and violators will be charged for those offenses,” Logan said. “I will not place our members at risk because someone feels their need to see what is going on is more important than our responders’ safety. During times like this, we need people to stay clear of the area.

“Simply put, we are taking applications for volunteer fire members, either apply or stay out of the way of those that have answered the call.”

This fire and the house fire on Feb. 12 are not considered related, but both fires are being investigated as suspicious in nature, the news release says.

Firefighters were dispatched to a fire at 420 4 1/2 St. SW. Sunday.