Waterloo man dies after house fire - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo man dies after house fire

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A 63-year-old man is dead after a house fire sparked in his Waterloo home overnight.  Waterloo Fire and Rescue say Robert Smiley was rescued from the home, but later died at the hospital.

Firefighters were called to his home on Madison Street after 11:00 p.m. Friday night. Firefighters say the fire started in the basement, but as of right now they do not know the cause. Firefighters confirm the home's smoke detectors were not working.

Firefighters aren't sure how Smiley died, but they say it was likely smoke inhalation. Neighbors are shocked to hear about his death.

"I could see some smoke and then I was afraid something had happened to him," said Rita Prochaska, neighbor. "It's really sad, he was a really a nice man."

Neighbors say Smiley was a retired teacher and a smart man. Family says he was caring.

"It's kind of sad especially, he was such a smart man," said Prochaska.

Firefighters say when they got to the home they didn't know if anyone was inside so they jumped into rescue mode.

"We didn't have anybody outside on arrival so crews operated in rescue mode and they performed search and rescue on both the first and basement floors and we did find a victim, he was extricated by crews," said Ben Petersen, Waterloo Fire Battalion Chief.

Smiley was taken to the hospital where he later died. His death is an emotional loss for firefighters.

"We tend to worry about others more than ourselves," said Chief Petersen. "We worry about the family and any people affected and that's usually our main concern always."

Smiley's death was not the only challenge in the overnight fire, extreme temperatures caused some problems. Crews say they were unable to use a fire hydrant because it was frozen.

"The weather temperatures are not only hard on only personnel, but the equipment...we deal with water," said Chief Petersen.

Crews were able to use another hydrant a block away. Firefighters say a person nearby reported the fire and they say they're not sure how long the fire was burning before the got the call.

According to Chief Petersen  there were 54 fire-related deaths in Iowa this year. That is the highest number of death since 1993.

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