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Fire engulfs home, claims life

Saturday morning fire that destroyed Estherville home under investigation

By Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer | Jan 3, 2021

A neighbor called 911 just before 4 a.m. Saturday morning reporting a large fire in the area. Estherville firefighters arrived to find 1414 N 6th Street engulfed in a fire with flames shooting out the windows. The two-story yellow home was owned by Paul Ostendorf. Witnesses on the scene report Ostendorf was deceased inside the home when firefighters arrived. In addition to the Estherville Fire Department, the Wallingford and Gruver Fire Department assisted on the scene along with the Estherville Police Department, the State Fire Marshal’s office and the State Medical Examiner’s office. In a statement, the Es-therville Fire Department said Estherville Police were the first responders on the scene. Estherville fire units responded with Wallingford and Gruver assisting, and were able to extinguish the flames, which had engulfed most of the home. Other agencies assisting at the scene were Estherville Ambulance, Em-met County Emergency Management, the Emmet County Sheriff’s Office and several local citizens and businesses. Bridget Bandow, Ostendorf’s former stepdaughter, said of the firefighters, “Thank you from the bot-tom of my family’s and my heart for your bravery, her-oism and courage!” Iowa reported 29 fire fa-talities in 2020, a decrease from numbers in the 40s and 50s of past years. The majority of those stated there was no smoke detec-tor present in the home. In a statement, the Fire Marshal’s office said that light-weight wood construction and a trend toward open spaces in modern homes means despite a lower number of fires and the availability of smoke detectors, the number of fatalities stays stable through the years. “You used to have seven or eight minutes to get out of the house once the smoke alarm went off. Now you have two to three minutes,” the fire marshal said. The fire remains under investigation. No further information was available from officials at the Fire Marshal or Medical Examiner’s offices as of press time Sunday.