Three early-morning house fires claimed the life of one Dallas County man this week, while other victims narrowly escaped the wind-fed fire sweeping quickly through their homes.
Bob Spurling, 88, died Monday when his home caught fire about 4 a.m. in a Booneville trailer park. He was the only person living in the house.
The trailer was already fully engulfed and collapsing when the Dallas County Sheriff, Van Meter, DeSoto and Adel Fire Departments and Dallas County EMS responded to the fire at 28925 360th St., lot 20, in Booneville.
The home was a complete loss, according to Van Meter Fire Chief Dave Van Genderen, who said trailer homes can ignite rather quickly and are rarely saved. The best that can be done is to contain the fire at that point, he said.
The owner of the trailer was believed to be inside and after putting out the fire, the body of a man was found.
"The Sheriff’s Office will not release the name of the victim until next of kin can be located and contacted," said Bob Coffin, lead dispatcher at the Dallas County Sheriff’s office.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, and the case has been turned over to the State Fire Marshall’s office.
A second blaze, at 503 E. 2nd St. in Dawson, broke out at about midnight Tuesday. Perry firefighters assisted the Dawson crew in battling the blaze at the mobile home of Tanna Corrigan, where Chris Corrigan was staying at the time of the fire.
Dawson Fire Chief Bill Kempf said Corrigan safely exited the structure. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Kempf said.
Firefighters battled the blaze until about 3:30 a.m. The mobile home was completely destroyed, Kempf said.
In a third fire, a 3 a.m. call Friday from a farm house north of Minburn brought the volunteer departments of Minburn and Dallas Center to the scene, where single-digit temperatures froze their valves and lines and hampered the swift control of the fire.
Minburn Volunteer Fire Department Chief James West said the house was already fully engulfed by the time his team arrived.
"The upwind side of the house caught first," West said, "and the wind just blew the fire right through the place." He said the firefighters had "major problems" with the high winds and the low temperature’s effect on the water. The Adel fire department provided additional water in the effort.
The house was the family home of Dwaine Collins, 83, who lived alone in the two-story structure with several pet dogs.
Judy Schultze, a neighbor and friend of Collins for nearly 50 years, said he is "still traumatized" by the events of Friday and not yet ready to discuss his experience with the Chief.
"He’s lived there his whole life, just like his parents and his sister did," Schultze said, "and to lose all that and get out with nothing but the clothes on his back has been very, very hard for him."
Collins is disabled and gets around with the help of a walker, Schultze said.
She said two Dallas County Deputy Sheriffs, Dep. Joey Marchant and Dep. Brett Maxwell, were first on the scene of the quickly spreading fire and assisted Collins in exiting the house.
The deputies even had to use some gentle pressure in order to remove Collins from the burning structure, West said, because he did not want to leave any of his dogs behind.
Schultze said she has been deeply touched by the generosity people have shown toward her old friend since the fire, from the doctors and nurses who treated him at Dallas County Hospital to his cousin and other local friends, with whom Collins is staying until he gets situated in new rooms in Perry.
"We’ve lived across the road from Dwaine since 1966 or ’67," Schulte said, "and we’ve seen a lot of community support for him since this happened."