Four people escaped this house fire in Atlantic. (KJAN photo)

Single-digit air temperatures and wind chills well below zero hindered firefighters in Atlantic on Monday as they struggled to tackle a house fire.

Crews were called to the two-story home around 10 a.m. where Fire Chief Tom Cappel says the smoke was so thick, it was hard to determine where the fire was located. Firefighters entered though a basement door but had to quickly retreat.

“The integrity had been jeopardized on the house and we just we couldn’t afford for anybody to be in there,” Cappel says. “The ground floor in the house had fallen through, the second story then shortly after. It got hot enough in there, it started to fall up over the kitchen.”

Three adults and a child were able to safely evacuate and a cat was rescued. Normally, firefighters would cut holes in the roof to vent smoke and shoot water inside, but with the house collapsing, that just wasn’t possible. “We had to wait for it to burn up through to get a hole in it, otherwise, we would never have been able to get to it to get it put out,” Cappel says. “Everything would have just fallen in.”

Cappel says it appears the fire started in the basement but an exact cause hasn’t been released. A house next-door had extensive smoke damage.

(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)

Radio Iowa