Man killed in Jewell house fire

Caitlin Ware, Special to the Herald
A house fire in Jewell on Monday morning left one man dead. Photo courtesy of Jewell Fire and Rescue

A raging house fire in rural Jewell left one man dead, authorities said.

According to Jewell Fire and Rescue Chief Duane Hendrickson, firefighters were called to 3685 Poplar Grove Ave. at 12:02 a.m. on Monday, April 30, after a passerby returning home from an emergency room shift in Ames noticed the blaze and called 911. Upon arrival, Hendrickson said first responders were met with a property already completely engulfed in flames.

Hendrickson added that the property owner ran a salvage business, so the home was surrounded by old cars, a liquid propane tank, inflated tires and other materials that coupled with the fire caused explosions. Wind speeds of at least 25 mph quickly spread the flames spread to a garage and abandoned farmhouse also on the property.

“By the time we arrived, the residence on that property was completely consumed,” Hendrickson said. “We had a chimney and a foundation. It was somewhat of a minefield to attack it safely. I’m sort of amazed we didn’t have any injuries because of all the debris. We tried to shield ourselves behind vehicles so if there was flying debris we could do what we needed to do while still keeping ourselves protected.”

It took until about 5 a.m. and the work of between 35 and 40 firefighters from Jewell, Story City, Stanhope and Ellsworth to extinguish the blaze that reportedly covered several acres. Based on the amount and type of damage at the scene after arrival, the fire department is speculating that as opposed to a sudden explosion, the fire likely burned for at least an hour before anyone noticed and called it in, due to how rural the property is, Hendrickson said.

Hendrickson said the owner of the property is an older male, who often used a motorized chair to get around. Upon arrival, responders were not sure if he was home at the time of the incident. However, according to Hendrickson, they later found his car at the scene of the fire, and confirmed with a family member who lives off site that he was not out of town at the time.

“Upon arrival, we weren’t sure what to think,” Hendrickson said. “And until we got closer, we couldn’t identify if his vehicle was there or not. But then we did establish later that his vehicle was there on the scene. So at that point, we assumed that he was in there.”

A body was ultimately found inside the destroyed home. It has since been sent for an autopsy, but no name for the victim has been officially released yet.

The cause of the fire remains unknown, due to the fact there is nothing left standing to actively investigate. The State Fire Marshal Division has been called in, as is the required procedure when a fatality occurs as the result of a fire, Hendrickson said.

However, authorities said that as of now, the fire does not appear suspicious.