Bluffs man in critical condition following house fire Wednesday


October 25th, 2012 by Ric Hanson

Fire officials in Council Bluffs say one person was listed in critical condition following a house fire Wednesday morning. Fire Chief Alan Byers says 77-year old James L. Rayburn, of Council Bluffs, accidentally started the fire at 3126 Avenue E, when he carelessly discarded smoking materials. Crews were dispatched to the home at around 10:17-a.m.  Byers says the first fire department units on the scene reported heavy smoke coming from the single-story structure. Rayburn, who had attempted to extinguish the flames before becoming overcome by the smoke, was found just inside an exterior door to the home. He was transported to Alegent-Creighton Health Medical Center by Council Bluffs Fire and Rescue. He was later transferred to the burn unit at St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center in Lincoln, NE. Assistant Fire Chief Larry Wohlers said Rayburn suffered burns on his face, scalp and left arm.

Chief Byers said neighbors who saw smoke coming from the home called 911 and used a garden hose on the flames from outside the structure. Council Bluffs Police Officer Dean Sharp was the first responder to the scene. Sharp and the man who tried to fight the fire, tried to enter the home by breaking out some door glass, but Rayburn’s body blocked their entry. By that time, firefighters had arrived on the scene.

Fire Chief Alan Byers said the incident should serve as as reminder to people not to try to put out a fire on their own. He said “We ask that everyone be reminded of the need to evacuate when you have a fire and to call 911 from a safe place.” Byers said also, that there were no working smoke detectors in the home. Council Bluffs residents who wish to have a smoke detector checked or have detectors installed can call the Fire Department at (712) 328-4672. Byers said detectors will be installed free of charge.