Neighbor called in Pomeroy fire Tuesday

POMEROY – Neighbors who lived up the street called 911 and assisted the family of John Lamfers and Tonya Klein escape a house fire Tuesday morning in Pomeroy.

Abraham Barnhardt said he and girlfriend Deanna Merrill were among the first to discover the fire.

Police Chief Lorie Gerdes said there were two calls to 911 that morning. When she got to the scene, she saw two people there she didn’t know, who had just moved to town. Barnhardt said he moved to Pomeroy about three months ago.

Barnhardt and Merrill were on their way to work at about 5:45 a.m. when they saw smoke blowing across the road.

“The wind was blowing really good,” Barnhardt said, “and (Merrill) said there was a lot of dust blowing across the road up there. It was an orange kind of dust, so I said let’s drive up there and look.”

As they got closer, they saw 8- to 10-foot flames coming from a box at the side of the house, Barnhardt said.

“At first we thought it was a bonfire. Then I saw the chimney stack on top of that little box,” he said.

That’s when he knew something was wrong, and called 911.

Merrill knocked on the side door with no success, so Barnhardt pounded on the front door after he got off the phone.

“They said they were sound asleep and the son was lying in the front room, and the knocking on the door is what woke them up,” he said.

Barnhardt helped get everyone out, he said.

“Once I went in the house, there was so much smoke in the house already,” he said.

After everyone was safely out, Barnhardt and Merrill waited there until the Fire Department arrived, he said. The fire appeared to them to be dying, and they were surprised to learn later that the house had burned down.

Some from the Lamfers family later came by to thank them, Barnhardt said.

Others in the community are pitching in to help after the tragedy.

“The classmates of the young lady who’s in middle school asked if they could do a bake sale to help her out,” said school counselor Diane Stegge. “The teachers are working with them to get that organized. It’s not going to be a lot, but it will help.

“The family has brought me a list of clothing sizes, so if anyone in the community has anything they can bring, for the kids especially, we would collect some of that.”

The teachers are also taking up a collection among themselves to buy the family a grocery store gift card, Stegge said.

For now, the family is staying in a hotel in Pocahontas, courtesy of the Red Cross, Barnhardt said.

Bob Bartling, emergency response director for the Red Cross’ Greater Northwest Iowa region, said he can’t talk about the family due to confidentiality concerns.

“With all fire victims, we take care of initial goals,” Bartling said. “What that means is we don’t want people sitting on the curb with no clothes, no food and no place to go. What normally happens is we find a hotel or a location, and put the family up for two or three days, and give them a debit card to purchase food and clothing so they can make their own arrangements.”

The Red Cross then works with the families to help them find long-term housing, depending on their insurance and financial needs, he said.

“Sometimes we help with a little bit of rent assistance, sometimes it’s a matter of working with the insurance,” he said.

Barnhardt and his brother are two of the owners of the North Iowa Knights, a semi-pro football team playing in Pomeroy this year. Barnhardt is donating season tickets and VIP passes for everyone in the family.

The Knights also plan to do a benefit later this year for the family, he said.