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Fire damages Dakota Avenue home

| January 9, 2007 11:00 PM

By GWEN ALBERS Western News Reporter

A Monday fire that appears accidental heavily damaged a 75-year-old Libby man's home.

The home may be a total loss, said Steve Lauer, assistant fire marshal with Libby Volunteer Fire Department.

Lauer said Tuesday he continues to investigate the cause of the fire at the 618 Dakota Ave. home of Robert Clough, who escaped unharmed.

"I'm going over there this morning," Lauer said. "I don't have an exact cause, yet the fire originated in the wall around a propane heater."

He estimates the home was valued at $40,000 to $50,000.

"That's a wild guess," Lauer said.

Clough, who said the home 1s insured, was making a snack in the kitchen at about 4:30 p.m. when he heard popping in the living room.

"I didn't have the TV on and thought 'that's strange,' there's no one here but me," Clough said. "I dropped what I was doing and saw fire coming from an old propane hole."

The hole was there to fuel a propane furnace that is no longer in the home.

"The flames were shooting out," he said. "At that time, somebody came to the door."

As Clough attempted to call 911, the unidentified man who came to the door attempted to put the fire out. He reportedly took in smoke and was taken to St. John's Lutheran Hospital for treatment.

Clough had a difficult time reaching 911. When Libby Volunteer Ambulance arrived, Clough and the other man were told to get out of the home.

"I thanked him profusely," he said. "I don't know the guy's name."

Firefighters were called to the home at 4:45 p.m., Lauer said. Remodeling of the log home over the years made the blaze tough to battle. It took firefighters 2 1/2 hours to put out the fire.

"When you have fire in the walls and ceiling area, you can normally cut through the ceiling or wall," Lauer said. "We couldn't cut through the logs and in between the logs we had a tough time getting to the fire in multiple places."

The home contained zonolite, so the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was contacted. Zonolite is insulation made from vermiculite and poses a substantial health risk.

"We have to establish a hot zone for decontamination of equipment and clothing," Lauer said.

Clough on Monday night stayed with his nephew Ray Weitzel and his wife, Cindy.

He understands the American Red Cross is expected to put him up at the Venture Inn.

"I'd like to thank the fire department and ambulance crew for coming by," Clough said. "They did a good job. I'm kicking and I'm alive."