'We have to move on'
A Lake City couple struggles with the deaths of their children and grandchild
Kim Kraft still wakes and — for a few moments — hopes that last week wasn’t real.
Four died in an early morning Lake City house fire on Nov. 13. They are (from left) Tyra Pierson, 22, her infant son Xavier, her brother Wyatt, 3, and her sister Madison, 8.
But the numbness of sleep wanes and she remembers.
She remembers the yellow dash light of her Buick on that panicked ride to Lake City, telling her to refuel the car while she sobbed.
She remembers the smoke that poured from her house that seemed to cover most of the town.
She remembers running toward the house — where three of her children and an infant grandson were trapped — and stopping short when the firefighters warned it was too hot and smoky to go inside.
She remembers the firetruck ladder that went to the upstairs window, and the false hope it gave her that a firefighter would — at any moment — carry her children to safety.
She remembers how it felt to lose half of her family that night. The emptiness.
Kraft and Tony Pierson lost their daughters Tyra Pierson, 22, and Madison, 8, son Wyatt, 3, and grandson Xavier, 10 months, to the Nov. 13 fire.
Investigators think that a ceiling lamp’s electrical cord ignited the blaze when it was pinched in the cushion or metal frame of a sleeper sofa in the ground-level living room.
There were no smoke alarms in the house, Kraft said, because of an ongoing home remodeling project that spanned more than a decade. The unfinished project left some of the house’s wood frame exposed and allowed the flames to move quickly.
The four Piersons inside died of smoke and soot inhalation, according to Iowa State Medical Examiner autopsies. All of them apparently tried to escape.
Tyra and her son Xavier were found on the floor of the upstairs bedroom. It appeared Tyra was trying to crawl out with the infant.
Madison and Wyatt were found away from where the fire started on the ground floor. There was only one door out of which they could have escaped, but it was the front door near where the fire ignited. It was spotted by a police officer about 1:40 a.m.
Had that night been like any other — had there been no fire — Kraft and Tony Pierson would have returned home from their late-night shifts at Farner-Bocken Co. in Carroll about 3:30 a.m. They would have watched TV for a time and went to bed. Wyatt would have joined them, along with their golden dog with white paws.
“It was always all of us together in bed,” Kraft recalled.
Kraft would have awoken again at 6:45 a.m. to get Madison ready for school. The two would have waited for the girl’s school bus. Madison would have sung the latest country song she’d heard on the radio.
“She was going to be my big music star,” Kraft said.
But it wasn’t a normal night, and now there’s little Kraft can do to escape her pain. She drinks Pepsi and smokes cigarettes and wonders where she can make a new life with Tony.
They’re living in a borrowed home until they can find a place of their own. The outpouring of support from the community has been humbling.
Gus Macke, who owns a car dealership in town, said they can use his house for as long as they need it.
Farner-Bocken loaned them a vehicle, gave them a van-load of food, solicited donations from its employees and plans to hold a bake-sale fundraiser next month.
Lampe Funeral Home won’t bill them for the children’s funerals.
Kraft and Tony Pierson salvaged what they could from their former house of 21 years. Beer steins, a gun rack and baby photos in an old Coca-Cola crate. Someone stole the crate from near the house on Sunday, Kraft said, and she wondered how anyone could.
Tony says they have to move on.
Kraft is looking for a new house, but it can’t be in Lake City. There’s too much pain in that town. Maybe she and Tony will find a cozy new place in a smaller town nearby. A modest ranch home.
“We don’t need a bunch of space,” she said. “It’s just me and him now.”
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