ANAMOSA, Iowa – State investigators believe a house caught fire due to a crime that's becoming a bigger problem in town.
The State Fire Marshal's Office ruled the fire started because of a meth lab. Investigators found materials used to make meth in the basement of the home at 406 North Sales Street in Anamosa.
The home is a total loss. Police said four people were home at the time of the fire, but no one was hurt. According to authorities, officers haven't arrested anyone, but charges are pending as the investigation continues.
The windows are boarded up on the home, and it was all quiet on Monday.
But Assistant Fire Chief Ron French and neighbors said the scene was very different Friday night.
"There was smoking coming out of all the first floor windows," French said.
"I got up, and then I seen the smoke coming out of the roof," said Neighbor Mike Martin
"My officer and I kicked in the door open to the basement," said Police Chief Bob Simonson.
"We couldn't see. They ran into some materials that are used in making meth," said Assistant Fire Chief Ron French.
"I was just going to bed and there was red lights outside," Martin said.
The emergency lights are shining a light on a bigger problem in the city.
"We are seeing more of it," Chief Simonson said.
Chief Simonson said there's an increase in meth-related activity. He said the up-tick is all about timing.
"A lot of these people are getting out of jail that went to jail for meth labs and things like this, and they are back making it again," said Chief Simonson said.
French said the mind-set of the Anamosa fire department is changing when it comes to meth and approaching a fire scene. It's often one of the first things they think about.
"We always have to be on the lookout, now, for that sort of thing. It doesn't matter what size of home or type of home or if it is run down or if it's brand new. You have to keep your guard up every time you go in and be aware of that sort of thing," Assistant Fire Chief French said.
Some neighbors were shocked to hear about the cause of the fire so close to home, but others weren't so surprised.
Police and fire officials said there's been about four bigger meth-related fires in the last two years. Officers are also following up on smaller ones that haven't been reported to authorities.