Mayor, Family Recovering After Fire Destroys Home

Created: 07/21/2014 6:58 PM
By: Dan Conradt

(ABC 6 News) -- Friday morning began as most days do in a normally quiet neighborhood in southwest Austin. But the day took a tragic turn for Mayor Tom Stiehm and his family.

“Probably right around seven I heard something," the mayor told ABC6.

“Call came in that there is a house fire," said the Austin Fire Department’s Tim Hansen.

“Then I could smell something, and I thought is somebody burning something outside," Stiehm said.

“And when we arrived on scene there was significant smoke coming out of the house,"
Hansen said.

“And I opened our bedroom door and it was like an inferno," Stiehm remembered. “It wasn't flames, but it was total pitch black with dark smoke."

The mayor and his wife got out of the burning building, but one of their two dogs perished in the fire. That dog was sleeping on the bed the Stiehm's grandson usually sleeps on when he spends the night two or three times a week. He was not there the night of the fire.

"Not only would he be dead, maybe me and my wife would be too because you're not going to accept  the fact that you can't get him out," Stiehm told us. “There was no egress window downstairs."

“In a basement fire, smoke rises," Hansen explained. “You need to have that second way out of the house."

“We had two smoke alarms. You can walk in the house right now and see them” Mayor Tom Stiehm told us. “How functional they are is another matter."

“If possible, you should have a working smoke alarm in every bedroom, and on each floor of the house," Hansen explained.

"The house I'm pretty sure is going to be a total loss," Stiehm said. “It went right from the basement through the kitchen floor up into the upstairs bedroom."

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined, but it's believed to have started in the area of a basement closet.

"Be prepared, because it can happen to anybody, not just the mayor, it can happen to anybody," Hansen told us.

“It's traumatic, but other people go through it, and we'll be okay," Stiehm said.