A house fire in Ottumwa Tuesday morning claimed the lives of two young children. The incident followed a mobile home fire in Atlantic on Sunday that killed two residents. Jim Saunders, with the Iowa Department of Public Safety, says it’s already been a bad year for fire tragedies in the state. He says during the first six weeks of 2008, there have been nine fire fatalities in Iowa. That compares to just one death during the same time period last year.
"It is kind of a stark reminder for all of us that we need to have comprehensive fire safety plans developed for our homes," Saunders said. "We need to practice those fire safety plans and we need to make sure we educate our entire family as to what those plans are." According to the National Fire Protection Association, less than one in four households have developed and practiced a home fire escape plan.
Saunders says Iowans who have not done so – should plan and practice for a fire now. "The thing that people need to remember is…after you’ve had a fire, that’s too late," Saunders said. In addition to developing a fire escape plan, Saunders encourages Iowans to test their smoke detectors.
"A lot of people will do that around daylight savings time, but we’re urging folks today – if they haven’t changed the batteries in their smoke detectors…do it today, don’t wait, get it done and make sure those smoke detectors are working," Saunders said. Authorities are still investigating the cause of the fire in Ottumwa. The children that were killed are identified as 2 year old Raven Umphress and 11 month old Aiden Umphress. Their parents were hospitalized after jumping from the roof of the porch.
A relative told the Ottumwa Courier that the father was burned while trying to rescue the children. Meanwhile, the fire in Atlantic has been blamed on an electrical short in the mobile home’s wiring. Gary Pearce and Linda Adams were trapped inside and died from smoke inhalation.