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Officer rescues six from fire

Policeman looking for burglary suspect discovers blaze

December 5, 2013
By BILL SHEA and PETER KASPARI ( and , Messenger News

A Fort Dodge police officer looking for a burglary suspect ended up rescuing six people from a burning house late Tuesday night.

Sgt. Joel Lizer went into the house at 714 Third Ave. N., woke up the four adults and two children he found there, and then got them outside.

"This is another great example of the good work and dedicated service provided by Sgt. Lizer and all our staff," Police Chief Tim Carmody said afterward. "We are truly thankful the residents are safe. We are also very proud of Joel and his heroic actions."

No one was injured.

There were no working smoke detectors in the house, and the people inside were unaware of the fire burning above them on the second floor until Lizer arrived, according to Fire Department Capt. Steve Hergenreter.

Lizer was looking for a suspect in a burglary in the 800 block of First Avenue North when he discovered the fire, according to police reports.

Officers originally responded to the Bike Shop, 808 First Ave. N., after receiving a call about a burglary in progress at 11:16 p.m. According to Carmody, the caller reported seeing two men kick in the door and go inside the business.

When officers arrived, they found two men crossing Eighth Street at the west end of the Bike Shop. One suspect, Romonique Cabbell, 30, of Fort Dodge, was arrested after officers ordered him to stop. The second suspect ran away from the scene.

Cabbell is being held in the Webster County Jail on $8,000 bond. He's been charged with third-degree burglary, possession of burglary tools and fourth-degree criminal mischief. His preliminary hearing has been set for Dec. 13.

Hergenreter said Lizer told firefighters he came into the neighborhood and smelled smoke. Lizer then saw smoke and flames coming from the house at 714 Third Ave. N.

He reported the fire to 911 dispatchers, then went into the house.

"Due to his immediate action, all six occupants were safely evacuated from the residence," Carmody said.

The Fire Department was dispatched at 11:45 p.m.

Hergenreter said the fire was confined to the second floor of the house.

"There was pretty significant fire damage throughout the second floor and smoke damage throughout the whole house," Hergenreter said.

He said the fire burned a hole through the roof.

Hergenreter said the fire started when a lamp fell over and the hot light bulb touched some combustible material.

Information on the Webster County assessor's web site lists the deed holder of the property as James and Wendy Stitts and the contract buyer as Keith Eldridge. Hergenreter identified the house's resident as Joyce Dillard.

The American Red Cross provided shelter for the residents of the house in the fire's aftermath.

Emergency personnel were on the scene until 1:30 a.m.

"I've heard lots of ways of fires being discovered, but that was unique," Hergenreter said.

Fort Dodge Police are also seeking information on the second, unidentified burglary suspect. Anyone with information on the suspect or the burglary is asked to call the Fort Dodge Police Department at 573-1426 or Webster County Crime Stoppers at 573-1444. Tips can also be sent online at or by texting LEC and the tip to 274637.



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