A rural New London family of five lost their home in a fire that was discovered shortly before noon Wednesday, Jan. 22.
Harold and Cally Johnson and their children, ages 9, 10 and 17, were not home when the fire was reported at 11:53 a.m., according to Brian Reed, a firefighter with the New London Volunteer Fire Department. However, their dog died in the fire.
Their property is on Route A about six miles west of New London.
Despite the difficulty of driving the fire trucks up a hill to the fire, Reed said, “luckily, nobody was hurt” among the approximately 25 firefighters from six volunteer fire departments who arrived a the scene in about 10 fire trucks.
Firefighters took tanker trucks and pumper trucks to the fire from the New London, Hannibal Rural, Perry, Frankford, Monroe City and Center volunteer fire department to fight the blaze, which had fully engulfed the house.
“We had to put hand lines to the base of the hill and carry hoses to the top of the hill,” Reed reported. “It took quite some time.” The water was hauled from New London.
“All our equipment is provided with snow chains, if need be,” Reed said.
The firefighters were able to keep the fire away from a propane tank about 40 yards from the house, Reed said. The tank was “about 80 percent” full, “and we were able to keep it cool and shut the supply off to the house.
“They had a detached garage,” which was not damaged, he said. “The family was very glad.”
The house contained a quantity of ammunition, Reed said, and “there were multiple explosions throughout the house” as the fire was being fought.
Explaining that “when bullets get hot enough, they will ignite,” Reed was glad to report “nobody was hurt when the ammunition did go off.
“We had a Ralls County ambulance on standby for the majority of the fire,” he added.
Traffic had to be rerouted at the Route A intersection in New London, and at the intersection of A and H near Center. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles completely blocked Route A. The road was re-opened at 4 p.m.
At 5:49 p.m. Wednesday the fire was out, and the trucks began returning to the fire houses. “We were there for an extensive time, picking up equipment,” Reed said.
“We contacted the Marion County Dispatch and asked them to contact the Red Cross,” he said. The American Red Cross provides clothing and shelter to fire victims. He did not know if housing was provided for the Johnsons, because “they had a lot of family in the area.”
Page 2 of 2 - The Johnsons have fire insurance, Reed said.
“I’d like to thank the Marion County Dispatch agency,” Reed continued. “They got us everything we requested.”
The state fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate the cause.
The Red Cross also helped by taking food to the fire house as the firefighters were cleaning up after they arrived at 6:30 p.m.
The Johnson family provided clothing sizes for anyone who would like to make donations.
Clothing sizes are:
• Men – XL shirts; 36x32 jeans; and 9W shoes.
• Women - small and medium shirts; 3/5 and 7 jeans; and 6 and 7 shoes.
• Girls – 7/8 and 10/12 pants and shirts; 13-1 and 1-2 shoes; and 8/10 and 10/12 underwear.
Reed said donations may be dropped off at the New London City Hall weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., “and the fire department will pick them up” and deliver them to the family.
He appreciated the response from the firefighters, who are “100 percent volunteers. There were no paid. … I just appreciate all the great help. We don’t train with all the departments locally” but they come prepared to help.
“I was glad to get the response I was able to get at around lunchtime,” he said. “It is not always easy - being volunteers - to get people in the middle of the day.”
His department gets many medical calls, Reed said. “We don’t do a lot of fires in the cold, but when we do, it puts a challenge to it.”