House fires spike in Marshalltown

Last week the Marshalltown Fire Department responded to three house fires, which fell among four in March, along with two smoke calls, six rubbish fires and two vehicle fires.

Deb Lundgren, fire marshal, said the Thursday night fire in the vacant home on 404 N. 11th Ave., was caused by a bad service entrance cable. A fire in the basement of 413 Park St. appeared to be accidental, she said, but it is still under investigation.

Lastly, a fire that started on the second floor of the apartment on 405 E. Boone St., was caused by a failure of an electrical outlet, she said. The department was also called to 304 Bryngelson Drive Saturday morning when smoke was coming from an electrical outlet in the home.

The recent spike in fires has prompted local fire officials to remind residents of safety precautions.

“We’ve had a lot of fires,” Lundgren said. “If someone notices any electrical changes, like if the lights dim or the breaker keeps tripping, have an electrician come in to make sure you stay on top of problems as they’re happening so they won’t become a bigger issue.”

For those with vacant homes, Lundgren said it’s smart to have someone monitor the house if the homeowner is away for the season to make sure things are working correctly.

“A lot of fires are accidental and you can’t predict when they will happen,” Lundgren said. “That’s why your smoke alarms are so important. For most of us smoke alarms are your first line of defense.”

The MFD offers a free installation of a smoke detector to any house. To have a smoke alarm installed call the MFD at 641-754-5751.

“A lot of families have smoke alarms but they take the battery out,” Lundgren said. “We want to see people keep those batteries in and keep them working. The best thing you can do is have a working smoke alarm.”

Kara Kelly, Red Cross regional communications officer, said the Red Cross offers services to homes that have been damaged from a fire.

“We’re there to certainly provide comfort,” Kelly said. “In most cases we provide immediate needs. In some cases that might be a motel room, some shelter, resources to buy food or clothing or toiletries. Each case is a little bit different.”

The Red Cross also has trained disaster workers who work with each family or individual and together they determine what the best kind of help is and how to help them move forward, Kelly said.

Other fires common this time of the year are open burning fires.

“It’s getting nice and people want to get out, just do it safely,” Lundgren said. “Have it monitored and have a garden hose handy. You can only burn between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. or until it gets dark.”

Contact Stephanie Ivankovich at 641-753-6611 or sivankovich@timesrepublican.com