IOWA DERECHO 2020

First it was the 'land hurricane,' then their house was on fire, and the neighbors' homes, too

Monday was the busiest day ever for the Cedar Rapids Fire Department

Three houses on Lennox Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids were damaged by fire during Monday's storm. All three families were dis
Three houses on Lennox Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids were damaged by fire during Monday’s storm. All three families were displaced. Monday and Tuesday were some of the busiest ever seen by the Cedar Rapids Fire Department, with dozens of medical calls. (Kat Russell/The Gazette) 8/10/20
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Thirty-three-year-old Jennah Bramow and her family have survived floods and house fires but never did she expect to see a “land hurricane” and a fire in the same day.

“We were all huddled in the closet when the storm hit,” she said of herself and her children — Maysa Hamilton, 13, and Jiovanni Bramow, 9.

The next thing she heard were loud noises as a massive tree crashed down on her house. And then ...

“We heard this frantic banging at the front door,” she said. “And it’s two of the kids from the house next door. They were terrified.”

The neighbor’s house, in the 3800 block of Lennox Ave. NE — near Elmcrest Country Club — had caught fire.

“And then it just went up in flames,” she said. “It all happened so quickly.”

The fire spread to Bramow’s house and the house on the other side. All three families were displaced by the fire.

That fire was one of four Cedar Rapids firefighters fought after Eastern Iowa was hit with a massive storm Monday.

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Firefighters responded to more than 1,900 emergency calls on Monday, according to 911 records, while the Joint Communications Center fielded more than 2,200 non-emergency calls.

Tuesday was the busiest day the fire department has ever had, Assistant Chief Andrew Olesen said.

“I know Unit 1 at the Central Fire Station made 37 runs on Tuesday,” he said. “And our other units responded to at least another 20 calls each.”

One fire at Fruitwood Lane NW was caused by a generator being too close to the house.

A majority of the calls, Olesen said, were medical calls involving either injuries from the storm or “typical medical-related calls like chest pains or shortness of breath.”

Additionally, the fire department responded to a large number of calls from older people and those who require some sort of in-home care.

“We’ve transferred a lot of patients to the hospital who wouldn’t normally need to go to the hospital,” he said. “These are patients who are on oxygen or dependent on certain medical devices, and they are unable to recharge the batteries for their devices or get a new tank of oxygen because those services were just not able to get to them.”

“And, of course, we’re getting the calls you might expect involving injuries from the storm or injuries during clean up,” Olesen said. “I know we saw one injury involving a chain saw, but mostly we’ve seen lacerations, head contusions and broken bones.”

One of those calls was to Bramow’s home in northeast Cedar Rapids.

Bramow said she is grateful she and her kids are safe, and said her neighbors, the Rev. Peter Andronache, a priest at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, and his wife, Magda, “have been so kind and generous.”

Magda said she was the one who called 911 about the fire.

Bramow said she was renting the house, but, “luckily, we have a good landlord.” The landlord already has offered the family another property and they are slowly salvaging what they can from the damaged home.

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Bramow, a Cedar Rapids native, said she and her family survived the Great Flood of 2008. She had to be evacuated from the southwest quadrant, and then the family lost everything in a fire.

“But I think this is worse,” she said. “This storm has affected everyone in the city.

“Even if your house wasn’t damaged, you’ve probably lost power, your food has probably spoiled, and your street is probably blocked by fallen trees. No one has been left untouched.

“It’s really sad,” she added. “I love Cedar Rapids. I have lived here my whole life and to see it like this is sad.”

But she said, Cedar Rapids is strong.

“We always bounce back,” she said, “and we will bounce back from this, too.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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