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Major house fire prevented Dec. 31

By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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A major house fire was prevented Dec. 31 due to the quick thinking of two city of Lincoln employees. The fire was caused by two garbage cans that caught fire, after burning debris had been placed in the cans, according to the Lincoln Fire Department. According to Fire Chief Dave Whitt, street maintenance workers Jose Reyes and Dave Elder “were driving by and noticed the flames running up the side of the house.” With the help of a neighbor and his garden hose, they were able to put out the fire. “Their quick action of extinguishment and pulling the cans away from the structure averted what could have been a very damaging fire,” Whitt said. To Reyes and Elder, it was just a normal day on the job, and something they wouldn’t have thought twice about doing. “We were on our regular route, we do leaf pick up,” Reyes said. “We were driving by on First Street and saw the garbage cans on fire.” Reyes said he knocked on the door of the home to see if anyone was inside, while Elder grabbed the fire extinguisher. “We just took it as just helping out,” Reyes said. “It’s part of our responsibility to report it and help.” Elder said it felt great to be to be in the right place at the right time. “I’m a city employee, and I did what I thought I should do,” he said. “I don’t want to see anyone’s house burn down.” Whitt was impressed by the fact that the two city employees checked to make sure no one was home before moving the cans away from the house and extinguishing the flames. “What I told them on the phone is ‘You were in the right place, at the right time, and you did the right thing,’” he said. “If the neighbor wasn’t home, and Dave or Jose weren’t there, the fire could have gone into the attic and spread.” There were no injuries, and damage was limited to the scorching of the exterior of the garage, a damaged electric meter and the loss of the garbage cans, according to Whitt. The damage totaled $1500. “We could say with reasonable security that Jose, Dave and the neighbor’s actions saved thousands of dollars worth of damage to the home,” Whitt said. The fire Chief said the fire was caused by embers from a recently cleaned fire place. “The Lincoln Fire Department would like to remind everyone that burned material must be completely extinguished by soaking in a metal bucket for a good length of time prior to proper disposal,” Whitt said.