An elderly Council Bluffs man was hospitalized in critical condition after a house fire Wednesday morning.
The 77-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was trapped inside his home at 31st and Avenue E. Neighbors did what they could to help get him out.
The fire was reported around 10:15 a.m. Brett Elam was doing some renovation work on his home at the time. “I saw flames coming from the house next door and went running over, kicked the front door in and saw flames and I just tried to call 911 as fast as I could."
Brett did more than just make a phone call. He began to help put the fire out while waiting for firefighters to arrive. “I grabbed the hose from the house next door and tried to put out as many flames as I could ‘til the fire department got here. I could see flames all inside the front door, looked like a big pile of newspapers were on fire."
Brett could not see his neighbor and knew he was inside the burning residence. “I was hollering to see if I could hear him, but I couldn't hear anything. We found him, he was lying on the landing next to the side door. We couldn't get the door open enough ‘cause he was lying behind it. One of the firefighters went in through the flames and went in the side door to get him out."
The professionals don’t encourage this type of action, but they don’t discourage neighbors helping neighbors. “You know you gonna stand outside and squirt water, it’s not gonna hurt somebody, but I'm gonna be a hero and go inside, then all of a sudden we got two people we gotta find but again, you like the part the neighbors are caring about each other and taking care of each other,” said CBFD Allan Byers.
An investigation determined the fire was sparked by the resident's careless disposal of smoking materials. There were no working smoke detectors in the house. The man tried extinguishing the flames himself before being overcome.