A mobile home fire at 11100 Jewel Avenue in northern Davis County resulted in the death of Larry Derby, 76, and seriously injured his wife Marjeana, 73.
All Davis County Fire Departments — Bloomfield, Pulaski, Drakesville, Floris — and Wapello Rural responded to a call around 7 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, that a barn was on fire.
Bloomfield’s firemen, not knowing a mobile home was involved, put on several layers of clothing for protection against the sub-zero temperature before departing for the scene on icy roads.
“We received word on the way that the structure fire was a mobile home, but it was flattened by the time we arrived,” said Bloomfield Fire Chief Jeff McClure.
Rich McClure of the Floris Department said the structure was “totally involved” when Floris and the other departments arrived.
Firemen knew when they arrived Derby was in the home, but there was nothing that could be done.
Marjeana Derby had managed to get out of the home and was transported by EMS personnel to Davis County Hospital where she was airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospitals’ Burn Unit.
Fighting the fire in sub-zero temperatures was a challenge, but Wapello County Emergency Management assisted the crews by bringing in a heated trailer, allowing them to warm up during breaks.
Chief Jeff McClure said the Bloomfield Department also worked for four hours Tuesday afternoon thawing out hoses and equipment. The department returned to the scene for a rekindle on Wednesday.
“it’s always hard to lose a life, but we did the best we could,” Chief McClure said.
The Iowa Fire Marshal’s report issued Monday morning said Derby’s body was transported to the Iowa State Medical Examiner’s Office, where the official cause of death was determined to be smoke inhalation and thermal injuries.
The agent investigating the fire said the cause of the fire was undetermined, “but based on statements from an occupant of the manufactured home during the fire, a possible cause of common combustibles being placed too close to a space heater cannot be ruled out.”
The fire marshal’s office said the investigation is suspended at this time, but may be reopened if any new developments or additional facts are provided.