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Three departments respond to Hinton house, garage fire

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

(Photo)
(Photo contributed) Firefighters from three departments, including Hinton, fought this fire which heavily damaged a house and garage owned by Ken Kirchner, 32278 Indigo Road, Hinton, on Saturday. This photograph shows the roof of the house collapsed over the front entrance and front porch of the one-story house.
A house and attached garage are a total loss after a fire 3.5 miles southeast of Hinton on Saturday, according to Hinton fire chief Chad Beck.

The fire at Ken Kirchner's home, 32278 Indigo Road, Hinton, was reported at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 22, Beck said.

Neither the people in the home or firefighters were injured, the chief reported.

A crackling sound alerted the two occupants of the house to the fire, Beck said.

"Kirchner opened the door between the house and the garage and the garage was full of fire up around the chimney area," the fire chief said.

The occupants left the house, reported the fire by cellphone and were able to get vehicles out of the burning garage, he said.

The chimney for a wood-burning fireplace in Kirchner's garage was against the wall between the garage and the house, Beck said.

The cause of the chimney fire hadn't been determined, but the fire started in the area around the chimney, he said.

Then the fire spread from the garage into the attic space of the one-story house.

"Once it got up into the rafters of the garage, it didn't take the fire long to get into the attic of the house -- there was nothing we could do," he said of firefighting efforts.

Beck estimated the fire in the house and garage along Indigo, a gravel road, had been burning since 5-5:30 a.m. Saturday.

"Smoke alarms aren't going to detect the fire because there weren't any smoke alarms in the attic and all the fire, all the smoke was going out the roof," the chief said.

Firefighters didn't enter into the burning structure until the majority of the flames "were knocked down," he said.

The garage and attic had the most damage.

"The first floor living area, other than water damage and the collapsed ceiling, wasn't burned up," Beck said.

Hinton firefighters completed the fire call just before noon Saturday, according to the Plymouth County Sheriff's Office fire log.

However, firefighters were called back at 5:04 p.m. Saturday when the fire was reported to have rekindled, the fire log stated.

Hinton firefighters returned from the second call to the fire on Indigo Road at 6:27 p.m.

Le Mars and Merrill Fire-Rescue Departments also responded to the Kirchner fire and provided water for firefighting, the Hinton chief reported.

Le Mars Fire-Rescue Chief David Schipper assisted with the fire cause investigation, Beck said.

Food, water and coffee for firefighters were provided by American Red Cross of Greater Northwest Iowa.

Red Cross also offered to help the occupants of the house but they were planning to stay with family or friends, according to the Hinton fire chief.

As of Monday, the dollar amount of the fire loss hadn't been determined, according to Beck.

The house and garage built in 2010 had a living area of 1,500-square feet and a value estimated at $126,850, according to the Plymouth County Assessor's online records.

To prevent fires such as the one Saturday, Beck recommended property owners have chimneys cleaned.

"Take the time to check them or have somebody professionally check them," he said.

The sounds that were heard when the Kirchner fire was reported are typical for a chimney fire, according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA).

The indications of a chimney fire include:

* loud cracking or popping noise

* a lot of dense smoke, and

* an intense, hot smell

Chimney fires can burn explosively -- noisy and dramatic enough to be detected by neighbors or people passing by, according to the institute.

The institute recommends a CSIA-certified chimney sweep inspect chimneys annually and cleans and repairs the solid fuel venting system whenever needed.

The chimney sweep may have other maintenance recommendations, depending on how a fireplace or stove is used, the institute website stated.

The institute website www.csai.org offers information which may be used to locate a certified chimney sweep.



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