AMES, Iowa -- An Ames family lost a wife, mother and grandmother as well as their home of 40 years in one morning.
Firefighters were called to the home in the 1200 block of Orchard Drive around 10 AM Monday.
“Crews started to make entry into the home and found thick, black smoke banked down into the floor,” said Deputy Fire Chief Rich Higgins.
They rescued 72-year-old Joanna Alexander and rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late. Two cats also died in the fire.
“She was fantastic. I mean she was creative and generous, she was a loving, wife and mom and grandmother. It's a lot to process, but a lot of great memories,” said son, Devon Alexander.
The family was going through the soot-covered home. There were working smoke alarms inside and a monitoring company alerted firefighters. Fire safety experts say in more cases than not, the devices save lives.
“A working smoke detector that's properly placed in the home is going to increase your likelihood of surviving a house fire by 50%, it's over 50%,” said Higgins.
Investigators believe the fire started in the living room around a chair, but the exact cause is not yet known.
“I don't know what the words are. It's odd to see your life you know, charred,” said Alexander.
Both the family and firefighters had hoped for a different outcome.
“It's hit our department hard, but one of the things we do is we get back on that truck and we get ready to respond to that call because that's we need to do, that's what the public expects,” said Higgins.
Fire officials say prevention is the most important part of the job. They remind people to place, then check smoke alarms in all bedrooms and common areas on each floor. When cooking if you leave the kitchen, they suggest bringing a spoon with you as a reminder that you left something on the stove. As for candles and heaters, leave a clear space around them and remember to turn off or blow them out.