Van Buren Couple Loses Everything in Fire

Crawford County fire crews battled a large house fire at 600 Deer Run Circle in Van Buren early Tuesday morning.

Dispatch said two tankers came in to help fight the fire as well as multiple fire departments.

Neighbor, Craig Ballegeer was on his way to early morning prayer when he saw the fire.

“I just look down here and seen the blazes,” said Ballegeer. “Thought somebody was burning a brush pile. Turned out to be a lot more than a brush pile.”

Homeowner Robert Lee told 5NEWS one of his air conditioner units leaked a few weeks ago. The insurance company had been out to assess the damage, but the spot hadn’t been fixed yet.

“It’s been cool the last couple of mornings, and so we turned the heat on,” Lee said. “I woke up about 5 o’clock and went in, and the same place where the ceiling had gotten wet and fallen down a month or so ago was on fire, but the whole house was covered in smoke.”

“The fire department is volunteer, and it took them about 20 minutes, I guess, to get here, and in that time it had expanded from a little area to a much larger area.”

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Stewart estimated 60 percent of the home was engulfed in flames when the emergency crews arrived.

“It’s a total loss,” said Assistant Chief Stewart.

The couple escaped the house unharmed, but they left many priceless belongings behind. Lee and his wife had just moved into the house which was previously lived in by Lee’s mother until she passed away in May.

“We lost all of her stuff,” said Lee. “We lost all of our stuff, and all of the mementos from our whole life, you know. It’s gone. It’s just gone.”

“It’s going to be interesting the new start on life and all that, you know?”

Assistant Chief Stewart said they believe the fire started in the attic.

“On the scene we can determine an area where it started from the worse burnt spots and follow the pattern.”

“We’ve hauled probably close to 30,000 gallons of water that we’ve put on this fire so far,” said Assistant Chief Stewart.

As the temperatures drop, Assistant Chief Stewart said there are precautions people can take to ensure the safety of their homes and their loved ones.

“This time of year people are starting to use space heaters,” he said. “Just be real careful, and make sure that they’re not next to something that’s flammable. Keep an eye on them. Clean your chimneys out real good before you start a fire in them. And have your heating units checked just to make sure everything’s good to go.”

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