River Bend Fire Means Another Hurdle For ‘Underserved’ Community

DES MOINES, Iowa — When firefighters were called out to 1515 4th Street Wednesday the flames were so hot that they burned through an overhead power line, dropping it onto the fire truck.

“You pull up on scene in the fire truck and where are you going to park? You’re going to park right in front of the house which unfortunately is probably where the power line is going to fall” said Lieutenant Chris Clement of the Des Moines Fire Department.

Two firefighters were able to get out of the truck, but the driver had to stay put for fear of being electrocuted. On top of that, crews couldn’t touch the truck until MidAmerican energy cut the power. Luckily, the Des Moines Fire Department says no one was injured and two adults and a small child were able to make it out. However, the danger wasn’t over.

“The wind was blowing over 20 miles-per-hour so it’s going to blow the fire towards the neighbor’s house and so that’s a real concern. That’s why we used some of the deck guns on the trucks not only to knock it down as quick as possible but then you bring out other lines and try to protect the neighbor’s houses,” said Clement.

The neighboring house took minor heat damage, but the house which caught fire is a total loss. That’s a point of sadness for Pastor Jeremy Johnson, his church has been helping raise money to assist the neighborhood.

“I think alongside everybody else your heart breaks for people who experience that whether they’re in the River Bend neighborhood or whether they’re in your own neighborhood,” said Johnson.

Hope Lutheran Church has raised $750,000 to donate to Habitat for Humanity, which in turn is using the money to build houses and make repairs to homes in River Bend. Johnson says this fire just adds another home to a long list in an underserved community.

“I think there are some people in our community that when something like this happens they say ‘Well I’m going to get my housing insurance, and I’ll be able to rebuild,’ but for a lot of people that isn’t a reality, not just in the River Bend neighborhood but in a lot of people’s lives” said Johnson.

Habitat says while they haven’t been in contact with this particular resident yet, they could qualify for some longer-term repairs being made in the neighborhood.

Investigators are working to determine the cause of the fire.

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