SIOUX CITY | A space heater ignited combustible materials and caused a fire at a red-tagged house on Sioux City's west side early Wednesday. There were no injuries.

Sioux City Fire Rescue Capt. Tom Standish said the fire call was received at 7:16 a.m. Flames was visible when firefighters arrived at the scene, and the fire was quickly extinguished, he said.

Deputy Fire Marshal Lt. Ryan Collins said in a news release later in the day that the space heater started the fire in the living room near the front of the home and caused moderate damage.

An occupant living on the main floor was able to get out safely and went to a neighbor's home to call 911, Standish said.

Pat Swanson, who lives three houses down, said his wife had gone to work at 7:15 a.m. and called him, telling him to go check out the house on the corner because there was smoke coming from it.

"I saw fire through the windows," Swanson said.

Swanson said a police officer already at the scene asked him to get back and informed him that 911 had already been called.

The fire was the second in nine days at the house.

On Dec. 13, a small fire caused smoke damage inside the home. Collins said in the news release that an investigation found that the fire was caused by occupants using a fire in a metal can for heat because the home's utilities had been discontinued.

The city's Inspections Services Division red-tagged the home on Dec. 13 until utilities could be reconnected. Code enforcement manager Darrel Bullock said Wednesday that utilities to the house had not yet been reconnected and anyone living there was doing so illegally.

Collins said the space heater that caused Wednesday's fire was powered by an extension cord plugged into a neighbor's house.

The house also was subject of much testimony during a recent Woodbury County murder trial. On Feb. 17, Vernon Mace, 50, of Sioux City, was stabbed in the street in the 1900 block of West First Street. Earlier that night, he had been inside the house with owner Tom Abbe. After he was stabbed, Mace came to the house and asked Abbe and another occupant to call 911 before leaving and getting a ride to Mercy Medical Center, where he died.

Elias Wanatee, 47, of Sioux City, was charged with first-degree for Mace's death. He too had visited the house briefly that night. A mistrial was declared last week in Wanatee's trial after a jury was unable to reach a verdict, and a new trial has been scheduled for Feb. 28.


Court reporter

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