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By Echo Menges
Knox City, MO – Sunday, February 27, 2022 – Overnight a devastating fire ravaged the house located at 302 East Edina Street in the southeast section of Knox City.
According to the homeowner, when the fire began, the home was occupied by three individuals, the homeowner and two children including the homeowner’s eight-year-old daughter and his four-year-old niece.
“My niece was up watching TV and the power went out, then the room filled with smoke. She came in and woke me up,” Todd Strange told The Edina Sentinel. “My four-year-old niece saved us.”
Strange underwent a harrowing experience waking up to a frightened four-year-old in a house full of smoke. He moved his niece to the front door on the north side of the home, and took a fire extinguisher to the back southeast area of the home where the fire was concentrated near a wood burning stove.
Strange spent the fire extinguisher in the area of the fire. Unable to extinguish the fire, he immediately took his daughter out of her bedroom located in the same section of the home as the fire and carried her toward the front door. With his daughter in his arms and his niece already at the front door, Strange moved the family outside of the structure.
“He realized it was too much for the fire extinguisher, and got the kids out,” Edina Firefighter David Fagin told The Edina Sentinel. “He did the right thing. Thank God they got out of the house.”
Strange didn’t know he would be left with only the clothes on his back when the fire broke out. He left the house with the children in tow wearing only socks, a shirt and pajama pants.
He helplessly watched his home burn.
Waiting for the Firefighters
According to a reporting party, who does not want their name released, the fire was seen from about a quarter-mile away from the north. The passerby was several blocks away traveling along on Highway 6 when they spotted the flames.
The reporting party turned south off of the highway toward the fiery scene, and called 9-1-1 at exactly 12:33 a.m. Sunday morning, noting the recorded time on their cell phone of when the 9-1-1 call went out.
“The wood stove was on fire, and so was the side of the house,” the reporting parting told The Edina Sentinel.
“It took the fire department over 40 minutes to get here,” said Mark Strange, the homeowner’s brother. Mark Strange lives just a few blocks to the east of the home, and arrived at the scene before fire personnel. “Everything is gone. There’s nothing left.”
“I was the first firefighter to arrive at the scene,” said Fagin. “I came from my house, which is three miles north of Edina. The house was fully engulfed when I got there.”
Fagin traveled approximately 13 miles to get to the fire. He was not in a firetruck and had to wait for more fire personnel to arrive with equipment, before the firefight began.
There was a mix-up on the location of the fire.
The fire was located near the Edina and Hawkins street intersection in Knox City. At first, firefighters were reportedly dispatched to Edina, that call was canceled, then firefighters were called out again to Knox City by the Macon County E-911 Center, which is contracted to dispatch emergency police, fire and ambulance calls for Knox County.
“Edina was dispatched at 12:35 a.m. and then they realized it was not in Edina – it was in Knox City, and they dispatched Knox City at 12:39 a.m. When I got there, nobody had gotten there yet, and I called for Edina Fire, just in case. Knox City Fire, LaBelle, and Edina showed up,” said Fagin. “The house was fully engulfed and water is always a commodity. I called out Edina, and LaBelle came over with a tanker truck because water is always an issue. You’re always looking for more water.”
According to Mike Kindle, Macon County E-911 Director, several 9-1-1 calls came in during the fire and the exact location of the fire was not immediately known.
“We dispatched according to the information we had at the time of the call,” said Macon Co. E-911 Director Mike Kindle.
“That was a mess,” said Edina Assistant Firechief Tom Morgret. “It wasn’t dispatched right the first time.”
According to Morgret, the fire hydrants were also frozen, which further hindered the firefight. Two hydrants were inoperable. The third Knox City fire hydrant firefighters checked did work, and it was used to refill water tanks.
“It was a total loss. When we got called down there, it was done. It was a matter of keeping the house next door from igniting,” said Morgret. The house next door sustained heavy heat damage to the east side of the structure.
According to Morgret, the times of arrival for the different fire departments is unknown, however, it taking over 40 minutes for fire personnel and equipment to arrive “sounds about right”. And, emergency 9-1-1 calls to Edina Street in Knox City have been incorrectly dispatched to the City of Edina in the past.
The wood stove is believed to be the cause of the fire.
Fire personnel didn’t clear the scene until around 3:30 or 4:00 a.m.
The home was a total loss.
“He lost everything,” said Mark Strange. “I went in and dug his car keys out. That’s all he’s got. There’s nothing left. He didn’t even make it out with a pair of shoes.”
“I lost everything because of a mistake,” said Todd Strange. “They could have saved it if they got here sooner.”
The Strange brothers were at the house later in the morning surveying the damage, thankful no one was hurt and reeling from the devastating loss.
“We’ll tear it down after the insurance (person) comes to look at it,” said Todd Strange.
According to Strange, a local church quickly responded with money to help with necessities. He will be staying with his brother in Knox City until other arrangements can be made.
The American Red Cross was notified about the loss and reported they will be contacting Strange to see what they can do to further assist the family after the devastating loss.