Fire destroys King home Sunday night
Posted 12/07/10 (Tue)
Inferno . . . A southwest wind pushes flames, smoke and
steam across the length of the David and Stephanie King home
in the dark and fog of Sunday evening. The home was located a mile
west of the junction of Highways 52 and 50, 11 miles south of Kenmare.
By Caroline Downs
A fire on Sunday night destroyed the David and Stephanie King home about 11 miles south of Kenmare, one mile west of the junction of ND Highway 50 with U.S. Highway 52.
According to Chuck Leet, secretary/treasurer of the Kenmare Fire Department, the call came about 7:30 pm Sunday. Leet estimated that at least 20 Kenmare firefighters were joined by members of the Donnybrook and Carpio fire departments and a few neighbors to fight the blaze, with about 30 people providing assistance.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. “We were sitting at the dinner table when we heard a pop,” Dave King said. “I though it was on top of the roof, but Stephanie thought it was in the garage.”
Stephanie King went to the attached garage to investigate the noise and immediately noticed the fire. She returned to the house to call for help. “I took off, jumped in the car and got it out of the garage,” Dave King said.
Two other vehicles remained in the garage, but the smoke and flames prevented King from saving either of them. “I just ran in and got a pair of boots,” he said. “Stephanie was trying to call the fire department and I said, ‘We’ve got to go.’ We didn’t get anything else out.”
Within moments, the entire structure was engulfed in flames. “The breeze was just right to make it follow all the way down the house,” said King. Neither of the Kings was injured as they escaped the house.
“The fire went from the garage and immediately spread through the rest of the house,” Leet said. “I suspect flames got into the attic and spread across that way.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The Kings had recently completed some painting and replaced carpets in certain areas of the house, with three or four rolls of the old carpet stored in the garage before disposal. “I was going to do it this week,” King said. “[The fire] had plenty of fuel in there. What a mess.”
The one-story structure had no basement and was built into the hillside of the Kings’ property beginning in 1995, with the family moving in during the spring of 1996. “Three sides of the house were concrete and the floor was concrete,” said King, adding that the front of the house was covered by a stone product. “It’s amazing the amount of heat that was generated.”
With their cell phones still in the house with everything else, the Kings went to the home of Dorothy King, Dave’s mother, to make some necessary calls. While there, their daughter Saundra called. “She had seen [the fire] on FaceBook within an hour,” said Dave King. “News travels fast that way.”
Attacking the fire
Firefighters dragged hose around the building to attack the fire with water from all sides. Most of the department’s available hose was put into use in the cold, foggy conditions. “We had hose lines coming out of every port in [the Kenmare pumper],” Leet said. “With all the hose lines we had to have out, it took a lot of people to try to try to knock this thing down.”
He continued, “Thank God for the new tanker. That played a big role in this firefighting effort. Trevor [Melin] was operating that and would come out and fill the trucks.”
Leet explained that Melin made several trips to Kenmare to refill with water because no source could be found closer with enough flow and pressure to load the tanker quickly.
Another concern for firefighters were the toxic chemicals often released in structure fires. “There are materials in the furniture, in the carpets,” Leet said, “and when you’re pouring cold water on those intense flames on a cold night, all of that comes up in the smoke and steam. We were constantly pulling guys back because of that.”
About 11 pm, firefighters made the decision to halt their efforts. “Our trucks were freezing up, our men were freezing up,” said Leet. “We decided we had the fire down to the point where we couldn’t do any more. We had it pretty well knocked down and there was no danger to any other structures. The layer of snow around the building was about a foot deep.”
The Kings parked their vehicle at the end of their driveway, near ND Highway 50, and observed the efforts of firefighters and neighbors. “We sat there and watched, in shock,” Dave King said. “There was tons of support there.”
According to King, the home was insured, with adjustors arriving Tuesday or Wednesday to complete their assessment. “It looks like a complete loss,” King said.
In the meantime, the couple stayed with Dorothy King a couple of nights before moving to the Quilt Inn in Kenmare. They are working with their insurance company to locate temporary housing while they consider options for rebuilding.
“It’s hard to find temporary living quarters with the way the economy is in the area right now,” said Dave King, adding that inquiries had also been made for housing in Minot and Stanley. “We might not be able to live right here.”
While insurance will cover the damages, some of the items most treasured by the King family cannot easily be replaced. “It’s not the loss of the property or clothes,” King said. “The big thing is the pictures and the records, things like birth certificates and my farm books. I have those back to 1994 and they were all in there. It’s all recorded somewhere. There’s a lot of that stuff you can locate, I guess.”
He paused and then continued, “I know there is support in the community.”
Leet said the Kenmare department appreciated the support of the Donnybrook department, which supplied a pumper used to run hoses to the fire, and the Carpio department, which sent a tanker to assist with the water supply.
Both ambulances from Kenmare responded to the call in case of injuries, Ward County Sheriff’s Deputy Todd Palumbo handled traffic support, and the Kenmare Fire Department Auxiliary provided hot beverages and snacks for firefighters and other volunteers at the scene.
Tom Pullen was also on location with his tractor, outfitted with a loader and a blower, ready to assist any of the fire trucks. “The driveway goes up the hill there,” explained Leet, “and there’s just one road going in, so if a truck got stuck or slipped off the road, Tom was ready to get it out of there. That was a good thing for us.”
One firefighter from the Kenmare department was transported to Kenmare Community Hospital, where he was treated and released for exhaustion. “There were a few other firefighters who fell on the slope,” Leet said, “but there were no immediate injuries reported. With all the water we were pouring on the house, the area becomes a skating rink.”
Kenmare residents may have noticed the wrong warning signal from the fire hall Sunday night. When the Kings’ fire was first reported, members of the Kenmare department arrived at the fire hall and activated the siren. “When we have a hardworking fire like that, we sound the sirens and that helps to bring more firefighters to respond,” Leet explained.
However, on Sunday night, the siren unit malfunctioned when it was turned off and went into “tornado” mode, so that Kenmare citizens heard a different type of alarm. Leet received phone calls about the problem.
“This was a malfunction in the system, not a firefighter error,” he said. “We’re going to get that corrected!”
He noted a good turnout from the three departments involved and the Kings’ neighbors. “Their help was appreciated,” he said about the sudden volunteers. He also mentioned that in a situation like this, individuals are covered for injuries by the fire department if they ask a member of the department about helping and are told they can join the effort.