Wind-driven fire destroys couple’s ‘forever’ home near Bland

Dave Marner

BLAND — A Maries County family lost their dream “forever” home to an accidental fire on April 18.

Josh Hall, an investigator with the Missouri Sate Fire Marshal’s Office, determined fire began on the covered patio area on the south end of the Route C residence owned by Barbie and Greg Pippert.

“That’s where the neighbor first noticed it when they called it in,” said Hall. “Flames went through the roof in the kitchen area and the wind pushed it right through the attic.”

The family had a brooder house for raising chickens in the area where Hall believe the fire began. It appears a three-prong extension cord supplying power to heat lamps in the brooder house may have overheated. Hall said the family had placed five chicks in the brooder the night before.

“This was where we wanted to be,” said Pippert. “This is the place we looked for, for three months.”

He said the family had looked at around 70 properties.

“This was going to be our forever home,” he said.

The couple was at work and their children were at school at the time the fire began.

“We were already behind the game and couldn’t catch up,” said Doug Nochta, Bland Fire Protection District’s chief.

Winds estimated at 15 to 20 miles per hour swept flames up an exterior wall and into the attic, Nochta said. “It pushed it right into the structure,” he said.

Neighbors working in a field across the road noticed smoke. Another area resident had dropped by to view a truck he was previously considering buying. The men attempted to use a garden hose to put out the flames. They entered the basement, fearing someone was trapped inside. Smoke and intense heat prevented them from reaching the upper level. 

They salvaged some family mementos and retreated outside. One drove up the road to call 911.

Nochta said he and other Bland firemen were at their station when the call came in around 12:30 p.m.

Firemen pumped the first 1,500 gallons of water from Bland’s new Mack pumper truck.

“We got it to steam but 15-hundred gallons wasn’t enough,” said Nochta. Tankers from Owensville,Belle, and Vichy would arrive to assist but the fire had been pushed into the attic and across the entire structure.

The fire stayed high, spreading across the attic. Firemen were able to cover items in the lower level which was a walk-out basement.

“We tried to save as much as we could with salvage tarps,” said Nochta. “That’s what we try to do. Save lives and property. That doesn’t always work out in our favor.”

Nochta credited Owensville volunteer Carl Smith with a quick grab of a family photograph off the living room wall.

“You gotta give Carl Smith credit,” said Nochta. “Carl Smith saved a family photograph of a deceased family member.”

Later, during overhaul of the building, Belle Chief Nathan Abel located the family’s missing cat and her kittens. They had remained in their cardboard box on the lower level and were peering out at him when he discovered them.

“Mom and the kittens made it,”
 Abel said. “They were ready to get out.”

The family’s year-old Great Pyrenees, “Odie,” bounded on the scene when the Pipperts arrived. 

The dog, who stayed outdoors, appeared to have been singed by the fire but otherwise was uninjured. The family speculated he may have been sleeping near the front door or outside the family room picture window when the fire broke out.