Poplar Bluff family escapes fire by climbing onto roof

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- A Poplar Bluff family escaped serious injury Monday morning by climbing onto the roof of their burning home.

"At about midnight, one o'clock we were asleep," said Brian Todahl, who lived at 803 Kinzer St. with his wife, Brandy, and 10-year-old daughter, Kristen. "The dogs were barking and jumping on the door. They woke us up."

Thinking the dogs needed to go out, Todahl said, they opened the bedroom door.

The hallway was "flooding with smoke," he said. "Flames were shooting out the stairs. We got our daughter and got out on the roof at the front of the house."

Todahl said his family did not have an escape plan. "We just bought this house last February," he said. "We never expected a house fire. We never even thought."

Todahl said the only accessible window on the second floor was in Kristen's bedroom.

"Me, my wife, our daughter and two dogs got out," Todahl said. "We were getting off the roof when the fire department pulled up. A neighbor's son came by with a ladder [after] hearing us screaming for help.

"We took the ladder and that's how we were able to get off the house. I'm just glad we got out."

When firefighters arrived, just after 12:30 a.m., "we had heavy smoke coming out," said shift commander Ralph Stucker.

Todahl and his daughter already were on the ground, Stucker said.

Firefighters helped Brandy Todahl and the two dogs get off the roof.

Stucker described the Todahls' home as being "pretty much gutted."

The home, according to Poplar Bluff Police detective Gary Pride, had extensive water damage. Most of the fire damage, he said, was contained to the stairwell and upper story.

"We could tell the fire started somewhere around the stairwell and went up the stairs and the wall cavities to the second level," Pride said.

As of Monday, Pride said the fire remained under investigation; however, foul play was not suspected.

Stucker described the family as being fortunate to have escaped. "They had enough presence of mind to go an alternative route," he said. "They kept their wits about them real well."

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