Couple copes with fire

Register Reporter

Register/Richard Luken
This home of Randy Schalck and Mary Bass was destroyed in a fire Sept. 1.

Where they’ll turn next, is anyone’s guess.
For now, Iolans Randy Schalck and Mary Bass, whose home was destroyed by fire Sept. 1, are struggling to pick up the pieces.
Because of the fire, there aren’t many pieces worth picking up.
They lost all of their belongings, furnishings and clothing in their charred mobile home at 119 S. Kentucky.
“We were able to retrieve a few pictures,” Schalck said. “Somehow, our Bible survived. Everything else burned.”
Coping with the fire can be an ordeal, admitted Bass, who narrowly escaped injury in the blaze.
Bass was on the telephone with her daughter, Amanda Reiter, when she heard what sounded like firecrackers beneath her bed.
“I looked down and I could see the sparks,” she recalled.
Bass, who depends on canisters of pure oxygen to help her breathe, saw the highly flammable oxygen ignite.
“It’s a fire!” Bass shouted to her daughter, who dropped her phone and raced to her mother’s house four blocks away.
But rather than head for the exit, Bass dropped to her knees and sought her house cat — “a member of the family” she said — which by then was frantically zig-zagging its way from room to room.
Within moments Reiter was at her mother’s home, found Bass inside the living room still searching for her cat. A little coercion — “I think she jerked me out of the house,” Bass said — got her mother to safety.
By then, the smoke had grown increasingly thick as the flames grew in intensity. By the time firefighters arrived minutes later, the interior of the home was engulfed in flames.
An occasional exploding oxygen canister served as a deterrent as firefighters tackled the blaze. They were able to stop the fire from spreading to a neighbor’s house next door, but everything in the home was destroyed.
Fristy, their 3-year-old cat, died in the fire.
“We’d raised it since it was four days old,” Bass said.

SCHACK WAS uptown, filling his vehicle with gasoline, when he heard the sirens.
“Never thought it was my house until I got a block away and saw how bad the fire was,” he said.
Schalck, concerned Bass was still in the house, raced toward the fire. Officers deterred him long enough for Schalck to realize Bass had exited the home safely.
“I found her around back,” he said. “I think she was in shock. We all were.”
Schalck and Bass have stayed with Reiter since the blaze.
They rented the mobile home and did not have insurance.
“We need about everything, but we really need a place we can afford,” said Schalck.
Schalck works part time at the Resource Center For Independent Living. Their monthly rent was handled by Schalck doing odd jobs for his landlord.
“I’ll still help him when I can,” Schalck said. “But right now, we need to find a home.
“Our days have been up and down since then,” Schalck said. “I know we’re imposing on Amanda and her family. The stress builds up on everyone.”
Bass suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and diabetes and is unable to work.
The American Red Cross has set up a fund for Schalck and Bass at Community National Bank to help the couple handle expenses. Items also can be taken to Reiter’s house at 520 S. Kentucky St.
Schalck wears extra-large shirts and size 34x34 pants. Bass wears size 16 pants and extra large shirts.
For more information about donations, call 228-4121.