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Pre-dawn fire damages riverfront home

| October 6, 2006 12:00 AM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Thursday morning fire severely damaged the landmark, riverfront home of Libby fishing guide Dave Blackburn and his wife, Tammy.

The Blackburns and their children, Dan, 21, and Ginny, 19, escaped the 5:15 blaze unharmed. Father and son then attempted to put out the fire while waiting for help.

The fire at 13546 Highway 37 along the Kootenai River 13 miles north of Libby is believed to have started from a wood stove and appears accidental, said Steve Lauer, assistant fire marshal for Libby Volunteer Fire Department.

Dave Blackburn, owner of Kootenai Angler and nearby River Bend Lodge, said he awoke after hearing something.

"I thought someone was in the house," Blackburn said.

He saw "light spots" around the wood stove's flue and woke his family. While his wife called the fire department, he and his son attempted to put out the fire with a garden hose.

"We got to the part we could get to, but the fire wasn't visible," Dave Blackburn said.

"It looked like the fire was in the chimney and then it blew up," added Dan Blackburn.

The blaze was reported as a chimney fire. When firefighters arrived, they didn't see much, Lauer said.

"In a couple of minutes we had fire coming through the roof and it had extended beyond the ceiling," he said.

The high ceilings and additions to the home made it somewhat difficult to fight the blaze.

Dave Blackburn praised firefighters for their effort and hopes to salvage some of his home's contents.

"I'm glad everyone was safe, including the firefighters," Blackburn said.

The family had lived there since 1982. Over the years they added on to what had been a cabin built in 1907.

The home is insured.

The Blackburns are staying in one the bunk houses they rent to guests.