House fire results in total loss

Monticello and Anamosa fire departments work through the night on Saturday, March 18 to battle a house fire at 224 N. Chestnut St. in Monticello. The home, owned by Al Hughes, was a total loss following the chimney-related fire. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

The two-story Hughes’ home on N. Chestnut Street suffered the worst damage in the back of the structure. Fire crews were called out around 9 p.m. The fire and smoke could be seen for miles.
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     The Monticello Fire Department was called to a two-story structure fire at 224 N. Chestnut St. at 9:02 p.m. on Saturday, March 18.

     The home, which was fully engulfed by the time the MFD arrived on scene, is owned by Al Hughes. He said he’s lived there since the mid-1970s.

     As soon as the MFD received the page from Jones County Dispatch, Fire Chief Don McCarthy said they asked for the Anamosa Fire Department to be placed on stand-by. McCarthy said a Monticello firefighter who lives a block away from the Hughes’ home drove down the alleyway behind the house on his way to the fire station. By that time, the firefighter could already see flames coming out of the roof.

     “When we first arrived on scene,” said McCarthy, “we had Dispatch call out Anamosa (Fire Department).”

     He said due to the size of the house itself and its close proximity to neighboring homes, additional assistance was needed to keep the fire from spreading.

     Those living in the neighboring homes were evacuated. One neighbor, Judy Schoon, who resides to the left of Hughes, said she didn’t even notice the fire right away.

     “I heard the city alarm,” she said when the city sirens sounded for the MFD.

     Schoon said she was in the opposite side of her house and didn’t know anything was going on. It wasn’t until she saw blue flashing lights out of her window that thought she’d better see what the situation was.

     Schoon vacated her house shortly after 9 p.m. and remained outside until after midnight.

     The American Red Cross was on scene at around 12:30 a.m., but was advised by the Monticello Police that Hughes had shelter for the night.

     The fire and smoke rose high in the sky that people could see the fire for miles along Highway 151 and Business 151.

     Dawn Long and her children were actually coming out of the Fareway in Monticello, not far from N. Chestnut Street, when they saw the smoke.

     “I immediately called 911,” Long said.

     She followed the smoke and pulled up to Hughes’ home and began knocking on the door asking if anyone was inside. Meanwhile, her son was in the car talking with Dispatch, relaying the information.

     “He (Hughes) ran to the door and I told him his house was on fire,” Long said. “And I asked if there was anyone else in the house.” Hughes lived there alone.

     Long informed Hughes that she called 911, and told him he needed to vacate his house.

     As Long went back to her vehicle to check on her kids, she said “the crackling got louder and (the house) burst into flames.”

     Long wasn’t sure if Hughes made it out of his house in time, but a nearby neighbor said he saw Hughes in the back of the house.

     “I was relieved he was finally out,” she said.

     Long said the flames grew higher and she was hoping the fire wouldn’t spread to the neighboring homes.

     Long said the situation really shook her and her kids up, but she’s glad no one was hurt.

     The MFD was also called to 224 N. Chestnut St. Thursday afternoon, March 16. Shortly after the call went out, it was canceled before anyone arrived at the home. McCarthy said it appeared that Hughes had been having issues with his chimney at that time.

     “There was no actual fire,” he said of the Thursday call.

     As for the Saturday night fire, McCarthy said it likely started in the chimney as well. Once it got into the attic, the fire spread throughout the second floor and roof.

     The home is ruled a total loss due to the extensive damage.

     The AFD left the scene around 1 a.m. or so. The MFD didn’t leave the station until 4:30 a.m. after cleaning up the hoses and equipment.


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