BURNSIDE, Iowa -- "Dream house I guess, we kinda customized it to, you know, how we wanted it," said Sarah Kelley, as she described the home that fire destroyed early this morning. Sarah and her husband Kirk, who is the Chief of the Lehigh Volunteer Fire Department, watched that dream house go up in flames in the community of Burnside; this is the second time in four years that their house has burned down. The cause of the previous house fire was electrical. The cause of this one is unknown at this time. "Sheer panic. At first I guess you know, worrying about the kids and you don`t think of anything else, just that you have to get out and get the kids out and then afterwards when you stand here and watch it burn, I guess everything we built up after the last one is gone again," said Sarah Kelley as she teared up while describing and recounting what she was thinking and feeling hours earlier as her home was destroyed by fire.
It wasn't fire alarms that woke the family up; it was ammo. "I have between 2-3000 rounds in there so it made a lot of boom," said Kirk Kelley. The closet in the master bedroom was filled with lots of ammunition; that's where the fire started. "I popped my head up and all I saw was red. I mean the whole closet was red, and at that point I knew that it was get the hell out of there time," said Kirk. Kirk's father is also a volunteer firefighter and he arrived on the scene to help get the fire under control, along with firefighters from various surrounding communities. "It was coming out of their bedroom and then the closet that`s right by the door and it was all engulfed on this side," said Kirk's father Larry Kelley. "It moved through the attic and once it spread to the attic, it went quick," said Larry.
Kirk and Sarah were able to quickly get their two kids out of the house safely. Their dog "Snoopy" on the other hand, was a different story. Getting him out wasn't so easy. "The dog caused most of the trouble. When you yell at him, then he gets skittish and doesn`t want to come so he spent most of the time in there trying to get him out, after we were out," said Sarah. "I`ve been in a lot of fires and I`ve never been scared, but I truly didn`t think i was gonna live...the dog just kept running deep and he`s been a part of our family. I wasn`t gonna not get him...I still love him but it was close," said Kirk.
This is the third time in the past six months that a Lehigh firefighter's home has been destroyed by fire. Kirk says he doesn't know what caused the fire. The state fire marshal's office is investigating to determine the cause. As for the other two house fires that have happened to Lehigh fire fighters, Kirk calls that just a coincidence; attributing it to really bad luck. He does not believe there is any foul play or arson to blame.
A gofundme account has been set up to help the Kelley family.