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Winterset family supported after Tuesday morning house fire

The Winterset community is helping out a local first responder after a house fire. Here's how officials think it started.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Winterset community is supporting a local first responder and his family after losing their home to a house fire earlier in this week. 

"I heard the fire alarms in the fire station going off in right next to the fire station. there were a lot of trucks that went out. So, I was very curious like, 'Oh gosh, something bad happened,'" said Elysabeth Grose. 

Grose's pet grooming business is a few doors down for the Winterset Fire Department. She claimed she knew it wouldn't be long after the sirens started around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday before the community would find out what happened.

"It's a small town, so word gets around," Grose said.

The home, which was fully engulfed by flames, belonged to Jeff Johnston, Winterset's assistant fire chief. 

"When I got home that evening, I learned that it was Jeff Johnston and his family who lost their house in that fire," she said. "And it was just awful."

According to the Winterset Fire Department, Johnston and his family are well known in the community and involved in 4-H as well as other local groups. 

Apart from his position in the fire department, some people in the community know Jeff Johnston as a junior high wrestling coach. Grose said that, when she did wrestling, Johnston was a huge support system for her

"He was like, 'Yes, good job, like, you're doing great.' And he just treats us like, one of the guys, you know ... He was a really, really good guy," Grose said.

Grose hopes the town can continue to show the support Johnston and his family give to people on the mat and out in the community.

"I hope that our community of Winterset can just help as much as we can to help them get their home back," she said. 

Local 5 spoke to Fire Chief Jason McDonald of Winterset about the cause of the fire. McDonald said that Johnston was remodeling his home and was experiencing some writing issues. 

At this time in the investigation, Winterset FD have not released an official cause, but signs are pointing to electrical problems. 

If you're interested in donating money toward the Johnston family, there is an account at Farmers and Merchants bank for the family, according to the fire department.

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