UPDATE: Fatal Fire Caused By Cigarette Lighter
Council Bluffs Home Destroyed, Family In Mourning
Council Bluffs, IA - The fire chief has ruled Saturday morning's fatal fire was started by a cigarette lighter. Chief Alan Byers said the victim, four-year-old Leland Johnson, was not the child playing with the lighter. Chief Byers said the house near 34th and Avenue C did have a working smoke detector. But someone had dismantled it for a cleaning project.
"It's horrible," stated neighbor Scotty Crowder.
A mother and two children inside the home were able to escape shortly after 6 A.M., but Johnson was trapped inside. The owner of the home, Larry Bracht, did all he could to rescue the little boy, but the flames were just too intense.
"I was thinking I could get upstairs, but then I realized it was a bad idea."
"The mom was obviously frantic," added Crowder.
Frantic because Johnson, who had just celebrated his fourth birthday, could not escape the flames from his upstairs bedroom.
"I told 911 to hurry up and then I came inside my home to get all of my kids and that's when the police showed up," recalled Crowder.
Johnson was rushed to Mercy Hospital where he later died. It's still not clear if the home was equipped with fire detectors. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.