Number of house fires in Iowa: 7 dead in just 3 days

Mark Osterkamp poses Friday with pictures of his parents Charles Osterkamp and Sheri Osterkamp, ​​which he found while searching their burned down home in Cedar Rapids. The retired couple died in a fire on Thursday. (Emily Andersen/The Gazette)

Charles and Sheri Osterkamp’s belongings sit in the back of a quad on Friday. The couple were killed in a fire on Thursday and their son Mark Osterkamp has collected all sentimental from their home, which was not damaged in the fire. (Emily Andersen/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids Fire Department workers leave the scene of a house fire in northeast Cedar Rapids Thursday. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — In less than three days this week, seven people — five of them children — have died in home fires in Iowa, a death toll the state hasn’t seen in at least 16 years, data shows.

Four children died in a fire in Mason City on Wednesday. A retired couple died Thursday in a fire in northeast Cedar Rapids. And a fire early Friday in Onslow claimed another child.

The Mason City fire was attributed to a faulty power strip. The cause of the Cedar Rapids and Onslow fires remained under investigation, although officials believe the Onslow fire started in the kitchen.

Building fires tend to occur around this time of year, said Ron Humphrey, the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office special agent in charge, because when the temperature drops, people use various types of heat-generating equipment, which can sometimes become fire hazards. such as space heaters, stoves and fireplaces.

“I can’t say that’s one of the causes of these recent fires, but fires in general this time of year we seem to get more frequently because … people are starting to turn on their stoves,” Humphrey said.

Data compiled by the State Fire Marshal’s Office in 2006 shows that there has never been such a high fire death toll in such a short period of time in 16 years. In December 2017 – four days before Christmas – two fires on the same day killed six people, including a family of five, in Davenport.

A slow fire

A student in the Midland School District died in an accidental house fire in the small Jones County town of Onslow on Friday morning.

The Wyoming, Iowa, fire department, about 3 miles south of Onslow, which does not have its own fire department, was called to the fire at 205 Summit St. at 4:15 a.m., according to a news release.

Before the fire department arrived, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office received a call reporting that a child was trapped in an upstairs bedroom. Four other children and one adult were able to get out of the house.

The press release said that upon arrival, firefighters attempted to reach the trapped child but were unable to do so due to the intensity of the fire. The child died in the fire. An autopsy will be performed by the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office.

The adult and children who escaped were taken to Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa for treatment for smoke and heat-related injuries. One child was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for further treatment. The others had all been released from the medical center on Friday afternoon.

None of the victims were identified on Friday.

The state fire brigade was called in to support the investigation. Officials believe the fire started in the home’s kitchen.

Cedar Rapid’s fire

On Thursday, a fire in northeast Cedar Rapids killed two people: 72-year-old Charles Osterkamp and 70-year-old Sheri Osterkamp. The couple were pulled from the basement by firefighters after a neighbor saw smoke coming from the home and called 911.

Firefighters were dispatched to the home in the 3800 block of Pine Tree Dr. NO called. The cause of the fire was still being determined on Friday.

It was a difficult year for the Osterkamp, ​​according to their son Mark Osterkamp. Their other son, Jason Osterkamp, ​​died earlier this year, and Charles Osterkamp’s health was declining.

Mark Osterkamp said he used to take his father fishing about every two weeks, but they haven’t been able to go as often lately because of Charles’ health issues. Mark, who lives nearby, was very close to his father and visited him regularly, often to spend time with Charles and ride his bike to a Hy-Vee grocery store around the corner.

“I would have loved to spend more time with him if I could,” Mark said Friday.

He spent part of Thursday evening and Friday searching his parents’ home to see what could be salvaged. He said he took everything that had sentimental value, like pictures and his father’s old guitar.

Walking through the house, he found some plaques and a watch given to Charles by the former Midland Forge, where he worked before retiring, to thank him for the years he had worked for the company.

“He was a good worker. He never missed a day at work,” said Mark.

The family didn’t have much time to think about funerals, and Mark is trying to find time alongside his schedule as a construction worker to figure out financial details surrounding his parents’ now-burned home.

“I’m just trying to absorb some of it,” Mark said. “I loved her.”

Fire in Mason City

Four children died Wednesday in a Mason City house fire that authorities said was caused by a power strip. The children were identified as John Michael Mcluer, 12; Odin Thor Mcluer, 10; Drako Mcluer, 6; and Phoenix Mcluer, 3.

An 11-year-old child, Raven Dawn Mcluer, and a 55-year-old man, John Michael Mcluer, survived the fire and were treated for injuries.

The fire was reported early Wednesday morning. The three-storey house from the 18th century was on fire when the fire brigade arrived.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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