116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa house fire toll: 7 dead in just 3 days
Five children in two fires among the fatalities this week
CEDAR RAPIDS — In less than three days this week, seven people — five of them children — have died in Iowa house fires, a fatality rate not seen in the state in at least 16 years, data shows.
Four children died Wednesday in a fire in Mason City. 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 blamed on a faulty power strip. The cause of the Cedar Rapids and Onslow fires remained under investigation, though officials believe the Onslow fire started in the kitchen.
Structure fires tend to pick up this time of year, said Ron Humphrey, the special agent in charge for the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office, because as the temperature drops, people start using different kinds of heat-generating appliances that can sometimes become fire hazards — like space heaters, furnaces and fireplaces.
“I can’t say that that’s any of the causes for these recent fires, but fires in general this time of year, we seem to get more because … people are starting to turn on their furnaces,” Humphrey said.
Data compiled by the State Fire Marshal’s Office dating to 2006 shows there has never been such a high fire fatality rate in such a short period of time in those 16 years. In December 2017 — four days before Christmas — two fires on the same day claimed six people, including a family of five in Davenport.
A student in the Midland School District died Friday morning in an accidental house fire in the small town of Onslow in Jones County.
The Wyoming, Iowa, fire department — located 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 firefighters arrived, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office received a call reporting a child was trapped in an upstairs bedroom. Four other children and an adult were able to get themselves out of the house.
The news release states that when firefighters arrived, they attempted to reach the trapped child but they were unable to because of the fire’s intensity. 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 the Jones Regional Medical Center in Anamosa to be treated for smoke and heat-related injuries. One child was transported to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for further treatment. The others had all been released from the medical center as of Friday afternoon.
None of the victims were identified Friday.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office was called to assist with the investigation. Officials believe the fire started in the kitchen of the home.
Cedar Rapids fire
Thursday, a fire in northeast Cedar Rapids killed two people: 72-year-old Charles Osterkamp and 70-year-old Sheri Osterkamp. The couple was pulled from the basement by firefighters after a neighbor spotted smoke coming from the house and called 911.
Firefighters were called to the house in the 3800 block of Pine Tree Dr. NE shortly after noon Thursday. The cause of the fire was still under investigation Friday.
It had been a difficult year for the Osterkamps, according to their son, Mark Osterkamp. Their other son, Jason Osterkamp, died earlier this year, and Charles Osterkamp’s health had been declining.
Mark Osterkamp said he used to take his dad fishing every two weeks or so, but they hadn’t been able to go as often recently with Charles’ health issues. Mark, who lives nearby, was close with his dad and would visit regularly, often to spend time with Charles and bike with him to a Hy-Vee grocery store around the corner.
“I would have liked to spend more time with him if I could,” Mark said Friday.
He spent part of Thursday evening and Friday going through his parents’ house to see what could be salvaged. He said he’s been grabbing anything that has sentimental value, like pictures and his dad’s old guitar.
While going through the house, he found some plaques and a watch given to Charles by the former Midland Forge, where he worked before he retired, to thank him for the years he spent working for the company.
“He was a good worker. He didn’t ever miss any days of work,” Mark said.
The family hasn’t had much time to start thinking about funerals, and Mark is trying to find time around his schedule as a construction worker to figure out financial details surrounding his now-burnt parents’ house.
“I’m just still trying to soak some of it in,” Mark said. “I loved them.”
Mason City fire
Four children died in a Mason City house fire Wednesday that authorities say was caused by an electrical power strip. The children were identified as John Michael Mcluer, 12; Odin Thor Mcluer, 10; Drako Mcluer, 6; and Phenix 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-story house, built in the 1800s, was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived.
Comments: (319) 398-8328; email@example.com
The Associated Press contributed to this report.