Pair of fires strike in Cape

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Smoke billowed into the air Monday as the Cape Girardeau Fire Department responded to a house fire at 334 N. Fountain St. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Two fires Monday evening left seven people looking for alternative sleeping arrangements.

Erica Emanuel was returning from work when she learned her four children and their baby sitter had escaped a fire at her home, 334 N. Fountain St.

Standing across the street, watching firefighters shovel the remains of a second floor bedroom to the ground below, her brown eyes filled with tears. She and her four children, Chris, 13, Kalontayus, 6, Qi'Mauryonna, 4 and Ki'ev, 2, moved in last April.

"Thank God they got everybody out," Emanuel said, as smoke drifted along the street and neighbors milled around.

"I was downstairs and one of the little kids came down and said there was a fire," said Emanuel's sitter, Jesse Wyatt, 31. "I ran upstairs and all I saw was smoke. I grabbed the kids. I wasn't even thinking. We got into the car and I called 911 ... It happened all so fast."

Cpt. Mark Starnes looks back as he and Firefighter Cary Roth take a break on the grass while responding to a house fire at 334 N. Fountain St. on Monday, December 10, 2007. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Chris stood on the sidewalk nearby with his hands pushed into the pockets of the unzipped hoodie he wore over a T-shirt. He'd grabbed whatever he could on the way out of the house, then went back inside to retrieve possessions from the first floor.

"My bedroom was upstairs," he said, sounding dazed. "All my shoes and all my clothes are gone. Everything. All my clothes."

Chris said his mother wanted a first-floor bedroom because she is pregnant. Emanuel said her fifth child is due Feb. 1.

Ed and Verna Downen own the home and were renting it to Emanuel. The Downens said the home is insured; Emanuel did not have renter's insurance.

Battalion chief Steve Niswonger said heavy smoke added to fire damage on the home's second floor; water and smoke damaged the first floor. He said the fire apparently started on a mattress in what appeared to be a case of one of the younger children playing with a lighter.

"There were three little kids upstairs. I think they learned an excellent lesson," he said. "The children showed surprise at how quickly everything happened. One of them said, 'It took off so fast.'"

Emanuel, who works as a home health care aide for AO Inc., said she was not sure where she and her children would sleep Monday night. Wyatt said later he and his wife would likely take the family in for the night.

Assistant fire chief Mark Hasheider estimated 60 percent of the home was damaged. He said the Salvation Army and the Red Cross would be called on to help the family.

Firefighters were finishing on North Fountain Street when they were called to 403 Fitzgerald Drive. There, a man and his son had been trying to change a fuel tank on a pickup truck, when gas splashed on a quartz light, causing a fire in the attached garage, Niswonger said.

The fire was limited to the garage, but the residence did have "moderate smoke damage," he said. The men were not injured.

335-6611, extension 127

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: