FOREST CITY - It took only about 11 minutes for a fire to destroy much of Rod and Gina Schlingmann's home Nov. 2 in Forest City.
As Rod Schlingmann looked over his home last Friday, he found it difficult to talk about what could have happened.
"It gets a little tough to talk about," Schlingmann said. "I just thank God we weren't here."'
But as tough as it is to talk about, Schlingmann said he wants to share his family's story in the hope that it motivates others to check the wiring in their homes, check their homeowner's insurance policy, think about escape routes and check their smoke detectors and fire alarms.
The Iowa State Fire Marshal's office determined the fire was started by a faulty lamp cord that lit a curio cabinet on a west wall in an addition built in the 1970s.
"Firefighters are in awe at how fast it spread," Schlingmann said. "It pretty much consumed two levels within 11 minutes."
Two of the Schlingmann's daughters, Mariah and Brianna, and Mariah's son Brody, 3, live in the house at 506 S. 6th St..
Mariah Schlingmann said on Nov. 2, she, her mom, sister and son left the house at 8:17 a.m. that morning.
The fire was reported by a neighbor at 8:24 a.m. and the fire department was at scene at 8:28 a.m., fire chief Mark Johnson said.
Mariah, Brianna and Gina Schlingmann were a few blocks away dropping Brody at Hanson Family Life Center when they heard the sirens. The family called Rod, who raced home to see his two daughters and wife outside the house, along with firefighters.
"I didn't see my grandson," Schlingmann said. "I made a beeline for the house."
He intended to rescue his grandson, unaware Brody was safe at preschool.
The night before, Brody had slept with his grandparents in the master bedroom on the second level that had been consumed by fire.
"We had a spiral staircase on the west side of the house that acted like a chimney," Schlingmann said.
Ironically, the family had built the staircase as an exit if there was a fire, he said.
The fire swept up the spiral staircase and into the master bedroom and bathroom and left charred walls, ceilings and burned debris behind.
A window on the south wall of the bedroom, about 20 feet high, would have been their only escape, Rod Schlingmann said. If they could have escaped, he said.
"I've been in the house about 25 times since the fire," Schlingmann said Friday. "Every time I come up the bedroom I choke up bad when I think about it."
"You never think it can happen to you, but my God, it can," Schlingmann said.
The fire left a path of black behind. Black charred walls and a couch that was consumed by flames. The fire melted plastic on a microwave in the kitchen and melted a flat screen TV mounted on the wall in the living room.
The plastic melted away from two loaves of bread. The fire then toasted bread pieces to a golden brown with blackened crusts.
Although the west lower and upper portions of the home took the brunt of the fire, smoke and heat, the entire house is scarred.
A porch area and dining area have blackened walls and glass melted in one window.
"They said this was a flash fire that came in quickly and went out but scarred everything," Schlingmann said of the dining room and porch.
The plug end of the lamp cord that started the fire still plugged into the electrical outlet on the wall while the wire is burned and partially melted.
"I'm just hoping other people can learn from this," Schlingmann said."Check your wiring, check your lamps, check your plug- ins."
Schlingmann knows firsthand how fast a fire can destroy. And the really important thing, he said, is that he and his family are alive to talk about it.