The Pierre Volunteer Fire Department responded to a structure on fire just after midnight Friday Jan. 10 on the 100 block of E. Eighth Street in Pierre.
“The sirens and lights and everything woke me up,” neighbor Larry Schultz said. “It was around 12:15 that morning. I looked out my window and saw the fire department and stuff here and noticed all the smoke.”
A duplex with up and downstairs attached units had a total of nine people in both — five upstairs and four downstairs. All were able to escape.
Assistant Fire Chief Byron Caauwe was the first on the scene. He observed an adult female fighting through smoke and flames to get back into the upstairs home, the city press release said. Caauwe crawled through the smoke-filled home to locate the woman and bring her out to safety.
“She has four kids and didn’t think they all made it out of the home. She was going back in to find them,” Pierre Fire Chief Ian Paul said in the release. “I’m happy to report all of the children had made it to safety, and Caauwe was able to get the mom out safely, as well.”
A different family of four occupied the lower unit, the release said. They escaped without incident.
“Everybody got out,” Schultz said. “It was a good deal.”
The upper unit suffered “significant loss” from fire and smoke damage, the report said. The lower unit suffered smoke and water damage.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Both the Pierre’s and Fort Pierre’s Volunteer Fire Departments, Pierre police and American Medical Rescue (ambulance), all responded to the fire. Firefighters fought and extinguished the fire after only around 45 minutes, but remained well after to douse any recurring hot-spots and make sure the neighborhood was safe.
“The most important thing in these circumstances is saving lives,” Paul said in the release. “I’m very thankful that everyone, including the first-responders, got out of the home without injury.”