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Firefighters knock down blaze

| April 15, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

A Troy High School student and two young children escaped unharmed Wednesday afternoon after fire broke out in a home next to Libby Middle School's athletic field.

Kimberly Vadnais was asleep in the living room with her nephew Cody Fisher, 7 months, and 3-year-old Colton Clemons whom she was babysitting when the fire began.

Vadnais' cat, Smudge, woke his owner by licking her face.

"Colton started yelling 'fire, fire,'" she said.

Vadnais said she and the youngsters tried to get outside through an upstairs door, but flames blocked their path.

They ran downstairs and smoke turned them away at the front door. Then Vadnais led the children to safety through a backdoor.

Libby Volunteer Fire Department received a call from Libby Middle School reporting the blaze at 3:29 p.m.

"I came home from school early because I was having a bad day," Vadnais said.

She believes the fire started outdoors because no appliances were turned on inside the house. Vadnais lives in the house at 818 W. Balsam St. with her father, Scott, and mother, Bonnie and younger sister, Mindy.

Scott Vadnais had taken the two boys to Troy to pick up his daughter at school, then took them home and left before the fire started.

Firefighters extinguished the flames quickly after arriving. However, the wood frame house had been fully engulfed by fire.

Fire Chief Tom Wood described damage as "significant." Assistant Chief Bill Watt said it would take several hours, at the least, to determine what caused the blaze and where it began.

Four dogs escaped injury, as did an adult cat and some week-old kittens. However, Smudge died after performing his rescue mission.

Smoke was visible more than a mile away.

A neighbor said she heard loud popping sounds and thought someone was banging on her front door.

The Vadnais family rented the house from Lonnie Brogden, who lives in California. Bonnie Vadnais said they would stay with friends Wednesday night.

She said there had been no fire in the woodstove all day, adding that smoke alarms in the house had been working.

Bonnie Vadnais appeared calm as several neighbors gathered around to comfort her and Scott at 5:30 p.m. while fire investigators continued their work.

"I'm not really comprehending anything," Bonnie said. "People talk to me but I don't know what they're saying."

She smiled and added, "We'll be fine. What else can we be?"