At 5:21 p. m. Monday a large, multi-house fire was reported on 6th Street, between 4th and 5th avenues.
The Havre Fire Department sent 14 firefighters with three fire engines and an ambulance to the blaze that started at 406 6th St. before it spread around the corner to 603 4th Ave.
According to Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard, the fire started in the backyard of the first house, from what initial investigation appears to have been a barbecue that had been left on.
After the fire caught on the porch of the house, Sheppard said the gas line to the house “malfunctioned” and began shooting flames on the fence and then to the house beyond it.
Observers said they saw flames shooting into the sky, twice the height of the house.
Some early observers had already gotten into the house and had started removing items from the house before firefighters arrived around 5:22 p. m.
Sheppard said local firefighters were joined by emergency responders from Chinook and Blaine County.
Kaydee Carnahan, who just bought the house on 6th Street earlier this month with her boyfriend, Kortez Franks, and had only spent two nights in the house, arrived on the scene at 5:30 p. m.
Carnahan said she was at work when a friend called to tell her the house was burning.
“I think I was just more just in shock than anything, ” Carnahan said. “I didn’t believe it at first, I thought my friend was playing a joke on me. ”
Reality struck when she got home to see her new home black and burning, with a small portion of the possessions she just moved in last weekend strewn across the lawn.
Carnahan and Franks were standing in the alley between 4th and 5th avenues, emotionally overwhelmed, making phone calls and being comforted by neighbors and friends.
The other house was the home and office of Sarah Jones who runs Sunshine Cleaning.
This morning Jones said that she was just checking out of the hotel she’d spent the night at and needed to get some coffee before talking about Monday's events.
Around 6 p. m., firefighters began entering the first house through the roof with a ladder truck, an ax and a chainsaw. Flames were still visible in the back of the building.
According to Sheppard, the firefighters didn’t clear the scene until almost 10:30 p. m.
“We had a lot of difficulty accessing the fire, ” Sheppard said. “Both houses were older and had some unique construction. ”
This morning Sheppard estimated the damages as being up to $250,000. He said the first house was unsalvagable, while he thought the one at 603 4th Ave. home could possibly be repaired.
Among the dozens of people gathered on the sidewalks and in the alleys around the houses was Emily Mayer, a local historian. Mayer said it was tragedy for the new owners, but also for the community, as these houses were built in 1915 by Nicholas Faber, the 4th Avenue house having been built for his own family. Faber built several homes and at least two schools in the community.
After the fire was extinguished, Sheppard said one of the firefighters was taken to Northern Montana Hospital for dehydration. He was treated and released.
See also: Community comes to aid of fire victims.