Editor’s note: Updated with current information regarding the investigation.
Grand Forks Fire Rescue responded to a house fire on 64th Avenue and Eighth Street in Grand Forks yesterday afternoon around 4:30 p.m.
The roof of the house was destroyed by the fire and no one was hurt, as the house was vacant – the former tenants had recently moved out.
Dale Heriot, fire chief, said that the fire department was in the mop-up stage at around 8 p.m. that night and currently did not know the cause – although the investigation was still ongoing as of Tuesday morning.
“The only thing I know, as I arrived on scene, there was some visible flame on the southwest corner of the building,” Heriot explained.
The fire was a difficult one for the fire department to battle as there were a number of hot spots in the structure that firefighters had to get to, according to Heriot.
“It appears to us that the structure may have been added on to along the way,” Grand Forks’ fire chief explained. “There are some walls that go right up to the roofing, which is unusual for a home with an attic space like that, so we had a bit of a time entering through that. The way the house was built, because it’s an older house, it had shiplap in the ceilings, so when the roof caved in, the ceiling stayed, so it’s been a difficult time for us to get in to those areas that the roof caved in on to get to the hot spots.”
Amanda Robertson and Chris Fuhs, who rented the property, said their possessions had been moved out and there a few items remaining in the basement but nothing that was flammable.
The property had trees, dead branches and some vehicles on site and Heriot said there was the potential that the blaze could have been more difficult to battle.
“Had the structure been fully involved, it would’ve been a huge danger with those kind of trees around there and it would’ve posed a whole new problem for us,” he said.
Ken and Karen Wagner, who live next door to the house on fire, were coming home from a holiday when they noticed the fire and called it in.
While Karen phoned 911, Ken went over to make sure no one was inside the house.
“I just went over to the house and started knocking on the door to see if anybody was home and there was no answer and there was more smoke coming out by that time, so I was a bit worried,” Ken Wagner said. “I went around the other way to see if I could get in through the backdoor but there was fire at the backdoor too, so I went back and banged on a window and I looked in could see it was an empty house, so I wasn’t worried after that.”
Wagner said the fire department arrived about five minutes after his wife called and son Lee and a neighbour (Tim Bleiler) used garden hoses to wet down the porch.
Heriot said the department appreciates help but residents shouldn’t take any unnecessary risks.
“When I arrived on scene, the neighbour to the west had a garden hose going on it and any time they can do anything like that it helps us, as long as they stay safe while doing it,” he said.