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Colfax house goes up in smoke

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 11:44 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, March 1, 2013 12:02 p.m. CST

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A house fire broke out Thursday morning at 3900 Gallant St. in rural Colfax. At the time, there were four residents in the house. Larry Beals was one of those residents and escaped with his life. He said he is fortunate to be alive.

“One of my buddies went upstairs and told me there was smoke,” Beals said. “We tried to put it out. (The) smoke was filling the house pretty fast, so we got everybody out. Everybody got out fine.”

He suspected the fire started in the fireplace. Beals said he lived at the house all his life. He tried to put out the fire but soon realized it was too much to handle. He said he will most likely be living at his friends house in Des Moines.

Rick Nichols of the Mingo Fire Department was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the scene, and he acted quickly. He helped save the lives of the four residents who were in the house. Some were sleeping at the time.

Nichols also saved a pet bird. He said the smoke inside the house was bad and that one resident refused to leave until a pet bird was saved. He then risked his life to carry the bird to safety.

Jasper County Sheriff and Mingo Volunteer Firefighter John Halferty was at the scene and told the Daily News once a fire gets going there is not much that can be done. He complemented Nichols for his bravery.

Colfax Fire Captain J.D. Smith believed the fire was started in the chimney .

“I believe that the fire started in the chimney, but it has to be determined by the insurance company,” Smith said. “The fire was burning in the walls when we arrived.”

Baxter, Colfax, Mingo, Newton and Prairie City fire departments arrived at the scene to try and control the house fire. What made the fire difficult to control was a lack of a water supply.

Rural areas do not always have a nearby fire hydrant, and firefighters have to pour water from their trucks into a small pool that then feeds a fire hose. The whole process is very demanding, and requires a constant water supply.

Newton Fire Marshal Mike Knoll was at the fire and said the fire departments have to work together in rural areas to keep a constant flow of water. Knoll said the Newton Fire Department did not get back into town until 3:30 p.m. Knoll described the house’s aftermath as “a total loss.”

The high winds did not help. High winds can make a fire difficult to contain and it provides the necessary element for the fire to expand. Luckily, there were no adjacent homes or nearby barns in the area for the fire to spread.

The owner of the house Mike Gannon arrived at the scene to see his house burning, and was sad to lose his house. but was happy that everybody made it out alive.

“It’s a shame on what happened,” Gannon said. “They lived here rent free.”

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