Rural Atalissa home a total loss after Thursday afternoon fire

Owner says home was at least 150 years old


Units from fire departments in Atalissa, West Liberty and West Branch converged on an early Thursday afternoon fire of an 89-year-old rural Atalissa resident, unable to save the two-story home of Harold Kline.

The 150-year-old Iowa Heritage farm home burned to the ground Feb. 11 as firefighters battled zero-degree temperatures. Fortunately, Kline was not home at the time, running errands in West Liberty when he found out about the fire, rumors at first pin-pointing the fire at his son Ron's farm across the street. Kline soon confirmed it was his farm house that was ablaze.

"Oh my gosh, Harold, it's your house," his daughter in law, Carol Kline, said investigating the rumor from her home, seeing the home on fire from her home across the street.

Kline said he rushed back to the farm he had left just minutes before, firemen running up to him as he pulled into the farm asking "if there was anyone else possibly in the house." Fortunately, the answer was no.

"That's when I knew how serious it was," Kline said, noting the entire home was in a blaze by the time he arrived. Kline said firemen told him they noticed his vehicle was gone and they were "hoping and praying" noone was in the home.

Kline said Monday the cause of the fire at his home located at 2268 Ivory about 6.5 miles northeast of West Liberty was still undetermined, called into 911 by neighbors.

Kline said "everyone" has told him he was lucky he wasn't home at the time the fire started or he may have been tempted to gather personal belongings and memorabilia that perished in the fire. He said he simply was "just devastated," watching his three-bedroom home burn.

"It took me about two days just to get over the shock of it all," Kline said, noting the 260-acre farm has been in the family for generations, a product of the Homestead Act in 1854, bought by his grandfather Fred Ridenour for $4 an acre. He said the home was built about 10 years later, constructed with 3 x 6 studs. He said construction experts told him that home would stand long after many new homes being built today simply because of it's solid construction. He said the home had been remodeled in 1979, a wall being removed on the main floor and the kitchen remodeled.

Kline said the home and it's belongings were fully incurred to replacement value and he plans to rebuilt, but will never be able to replace pictures and memories that were lost in the fire including items from his long-time marriage to his wife, Barbara, photos of their children, Lions Club International and District awards, as well as paperwork naming the property an Iowa Heritage Farm.

He praised the fire fighters for doing all they could to try to salvage anything they could – a neighboring three-car garage located about 10 feet from the home was saved although particially damaged by flames – and said neighbors and friends have come to his aid, asking if there is anything they can do to help.

"Everybody's been great," he said.

West Liberty Fire Chief Kirt Sickle said there were about 10 emergency units on the scene, noting the Atalissa Volunteer Fire Department had the lead role on the fire, West Liberty and West Branch called in for assistance as mutaual aid, providing water, volunteers and whatever was needed. He said the sub-freezing tempuratures didn't help matters and said the home was fully engulfed in flames when the West Liberty crews of about eight fire fighters arrived, along with an ambulance crew.

Fire at truck stop

Sickles also said his department was called to another fire Friday afternoon to the J & J Truck Stop at the corner of Interstate 80 and Garfield Road, extinguishing a wall fire in the main building.

He said Atalissa assisted with the call and West Liberty fire fighters were on the scene for about two hours to make sure the fire was extinguished.

Sickle said there was little damage to the building, the truck stop continuing business as usual following the incident.