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Guthrie Center Fatal Fire Puts Strain on Community and Volunteer Fire Department

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GUTHRIE CENTER, Iowa  --  A massive house fire that killed two young girls and injured two adults on Monday is being called one of the most devastating fires in Guthrie Center's history.

State fire investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the house at 1005 Main Street to catch fire. However, investigators say the home had no working smoke detectors inside.

Guthrie Center Fire Chief Dave Embleton says when crews arrived on scene it took only six minutes before the house was engulfed in flames. He says the heat was so intense, crews had to fight the fire from across the street. Embleton says he knew people were still inside the home, but knew it was too dangerous to perform a search and rescue.

The majority of the department's volunteer firefighters responded to the scene, as well as firefighters from the neighboring town of Panora.

"It's a tough deal. Whether it's a community, fire department or whoever. It's not something anyone wants to go through," says volunteer firefighter Tom Reil.

Reil has volunteered with the Guthrie Center Fire Department for 28 years. He did not respond to Monday's fire, but says he has never seen anything like it.

Chief Embleton agrees, claiming none of the 18 members in his department have either, nor have they ever preformed a search and recovery. Reil says he knows just how much an incident like this can weigh on first responders.

"You probably can’t say enough on how they feel. I’m sure there is a major stress load on what they’ve seen and had to do in the last 48 hours."

Reil says dozens of firefighters from across the state have offered words of encouragement to the fire department.

Fire officials urge families to have an escape plan in the event of a fire, but add it likely wouldn't have helped in this case due to the severity and quick-spreading flames.

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