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Iowa History Daily: December 22 - Keokuk House Fire Tragedy

Iowa History Daily: On December 22, 1999, firefighters responded to a fire at a multifamily dwelling in Keokuk which came in at 8:24 a.m. By the time the blaze subsided, the flames left six dead including three firefighters.

Four minutes after the call, the Keokuk Fire Department rolled up with sirens blaring to find a two-story multifamily dwelling pouring smoke into the southeastern Iowa skies. When a mother who already escaped with her 4-year-old son told responders three children were still inside the second-story apartment, Assistant Fire Chief Dave McNally, as well as Firefighters Jason Bitting and Nate Tuck, attempted rescue.

Although one firefighter located and removed two of the remaining children, they later passed away. The firefighter raced back inside to assist with the search for the final missing child. When a flashover occurred in the dining room and accelerated the fire, the firefighters found themselves trapped along with the child.

Over 3,000 firefighters from across the nation joined the people of Keokuk for a memorial service the day after Christmas. The firefighters lost in the blaze left behind eight children of their own, in addition to many family and friends. As a result of the tragic losses in Keokuk, lawmakers improved death benefits for firefighters and law enforcement officers who perish in the line of duty and mandated changes in training procedures. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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