February 25, 2003 at 11:14 PM CST - Updated June 21 at 8:37 AM
Overnight House Fire Kills Two By: Amy Jacquin
(Jackson, MO)--A deadly house fire killed two people in Jackson overnight Monday. And this one was especially difficult for firefighters, since the house belongs to a man recently retired f rom their ranks.
Retired fire Captain Kenneth Koehler and his wife, Carol, made it out of the Morgan Street home safely. But his son, and his son's girlfriend, didn't. Frigid temperatures and emotional ties made for a long night in Jackson.
Firefighters got the call at quarter past midnight. They arrived at the Morgan Street home to thick flames and smoke.
"It took us about 20 minutes to get it under control," says Fire Chief Brad Golden. "Then we tried to use our thermal imaging camera, to find anyone inside, but it was still too hot. We had to go back to cooling it down first."
The homeowners, Kenneth and Carol Koehler, made it out safely. But the fire was just too raging to save his 20 year old son, Gabe, and 18-year old girlfriend, Rachel Smith.
The Fire Marshall confirms this fire was accidental. An appliance, it's cord, or an extension cord believed to be the cause. And it started in the basement, which is where the two young victims were found.
The appliance may have been a computer that was left "on" all the time.
"Make sure to be safe, and turn things off when you're not using them," emphasizes Fire Marshal Butch Amann. "And make sure you have working smoke detectors on every level."
Temperatures in the teens challenged fire fighters -- as water froze almost as fast as it was poured. But most gut-wretching is that many of them worked closely with the homeowner, Kenneth Koehler. Kenneth retired from the fire department several years ago.
"It's always tough, but when you know people are inside," says Golden. "We're trained to prevent that at all cost, but unfortunately, sometimes it happens."
Fluttering tape marks the home is a fire scene... framing a memorial to two young lives lost.