Sheldon firefighters called to house fire

Members of the Sheldon Fire Co. carry a ladder to a house fire Tuesday evening, Jan. 22, at 1325 S. Third Ave. No one was injured in the blaze.

SHELDON—A 15-year-old girl has been charged with felony arson in connection with a January house fire in Sheldon.

The Sheldon Police Department began receiving new information related to the blaze during the final week of February about a female teenager, who became a person of interest in the case.

The Sheldon girl was brought to the police department by her mother for an interview with an officer. During the course of the interview, a confession and a written statement from the teenager were obtained.

The case then was referred to the O’Brien County Attorney’s Office. The girl, who was released into the custody of her parents after the interview, has been charged with second-degree arson, which is a Class C felony.

The county’s attorney office is handling the prosecution of the case within the state of Iowa’s Juvenile Court Services.

“The fire was found to be intentionally set,” said special agent Andrew Giere of the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s State Fire Marshal Division.

Giere said no accelerant was found during the course of his investigation, but he did confirm the blaze was set by an “open flame” of some sort.

As for the Sheldon house fire, no one was injured in the blaze, which occurred late Tuesday evening, Jan. 22.

The Sheldon Fire Co. was paged at about 9:15 p.m. to a report of a structure fire and an explosion at 1325 S. Third Ave.

On arrival, firefighters found a fire showing on the back side of the one-and-a-half-story house, attacked the flames and quickly extinguished the blaze.

Twenty-two firefighters responded to the scene and stayed there for nearly two hours.

Officers with the police department and a deputy from the O’Brien County Sheriff’s Office started an investigation into the fire that same night.

Sheldon police chief Lyle Bolkema said the source of the blaze was an outside storage cabinet that was leaning up against the east side — back side — of the residence.

“There was some damage to the interior, but a lot of damage to the outside,” Bolkema said of the house.

Giere had no damage estimate for the residence, but confirmed that the house’s exterior was more damaged than its interior.

He also confirmed what Bolkema said about the storage cabinet — which was about five feet tall, four feet wide and two feet deep — being where the fire started.

However, Giere could not confirm whether the blaze began on the inside or outside of the storage cabinet because it was completely destroyed by the blaze.

Bolkema said there were several reports of an explosion at the time of the fire, but those have been unconfirmed as far as he knew.

Giere said people who reported hearing an explosion likely heard a spray-paint can popping inside the storage cabinet because of the excessive heat.

“There was no explosion — just a fire,” Giere said.

The property is owned by Tom and Jill Mouw of rural Sheldon and was built in 1890, according to O’Brien County Assessor’s Office records.