Two Children Among Five Killed In Fayette County House Fire

By Orlan Love, Katie Wiedemann & Hayley Bruce, Reporters

ARLINGTON, Iowa - Authorities are working to identify the bodies of five people who died Friday in an early morning fire that destroyed their home.

"Our understanding right now is that the bodies are of three adults and two children," Ron Humphrey, an investigator with the State Fire Marshal's Office, said Friday evening.

The bodies have been sent to the State Medical Examiner's Office for formal identification, said Fayette County Sheriff Marty Fisher. The victims' names might not be released until the official autopsy reports are available, he said.

Officials received a call of a house fire at 5094 F Ave. at 3:35 a.m. Friday. When crews arrived on the scene, about four miles southwest of Arlington, the house was fully engulfed.

"I just knew with the way the structure looked when we got here, that there wasn't going to be any way we'd be able to get inside and do anything about it," Arlington Fire Chief Paul Sedorff said.

Humphrey said officials were engaged Friday in a recovery mission, with little attention focused on the cause of the fire. The fifth body was not recovered until early afternoon, he said

"There is so much damage we may never have an exact cause," Humphrey said.

A friend of one of the victims told KCRG-TV9 that a mother and her two children, ages 4 and 1, are among those killed in the fire.

Friends and family members placed flowers and toys near the rubble that was once a home.

Paige Caley, who said her best friend had been killed in the fire, was among those who gathered at the site.

"She was an easy going person . . . Fly by the seat of her pants kind of girl. Whatever made her happy, she would just go for it. It didn't matter. She just loved her kids," Caley said.

Sandy Klaus, elementary principal at nearby Starmont schools, said news of the fire cast a pall of sadness over the facility.

Though the child victims would have been too young for school, the loss will be felt by students once they know about it, she said.

"Counselors will be available Monday for anyone who needs someone to talk with," she said.

Arlington firefighter Jim Volker said brutal wind chills forced crews from Arlington, Stanley and Aurora to fight the fire in shifts.

"The house was pretty well gone when we got there, and we expected to have at least one fatality. It took us two to three hours to realize the extent of the tragedy," Volker said.

For Arlington firefighters, it was emotional searching through the rubble for victims. For many, it brought back painful memories of another fire.

The Arlington community suffered another tragic fire loss a little more than three years ago when Gerald "John" Rodenberg, 73, and his two grandsons, Henry Rodenberg, 6, and Ian Rodenberg Jr., 5, died when fire swept through their home three miles south of Arlington.

"I think everybody on the department thinks it's just like a flash back to the same old thing. We can't believe this can happen to a small community twice," said Chief Seedorff.

Two years before that, four siblings died in a January fire in a rural Greeley home about 20 miles southeast of Arlington.
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