WATERLOO – Last year was particular deadly for house fires in Waterloo, according to numbers released last week by the city fire department.
A total of five people died in two different fires in 2018, which marked an increase from the prior year in which two people lost their lives in two separate fires.
“We had a number of significant fires this past year, but tragically we had one house fire that took the lives of three Waterloo residents, and another house fire where two residents died. Our goal is always to have zero fire deaths in our community, and we will continue with our education and prevention efforts to attain that goal,” said Chief Pat Treloar of Waterloo Fire Rescue.
One fire, which claimed the lives of Ashley Smith, 32, and her 9-year-old son, Jaykwon Sallis, on Dawson Street in April was deemed to be arson, and Denise O’Brien was arrested for murder.
The exact cause of the Commercial Street house fire that killed Amber Dawn Everman, 33, and her two children, Amari Burkett, 9, and Ava Everman, 6, hasn’t been determined, but officials said the cause appears to be electrical. Authorities said smoke alarms were in the home but weren’t working.
Across Iowa, fire deaths were down in 2018, from 56 to 35.
Calls answered by Waterloo firefighters were up last year, increasing by 226 to 11,253 and marking the fourth-straight year of increases.
Of the 11,253 calls in 2018, 265 were actual fires, up by nine over the previous year. A total of 82 of those were building fires. Combined, the fires caused an estimated $2 million in property damage, according to the fire department numbers.
The fire department conducted 638 inspections of new commercial properties and undertook 30 investigations into fires.