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Multiple challenges for firefighters on North B Street house fire

‘Never seen smoke hit the ground like that’

Grangeville firefighters were challenged with multiple issues in battling last week’s house fire (Tuesday, Aug. 29) on North B Street. Fire cause is undetermined.

Photo by David Rauzi
Grangeville firefighters were challenged with multiple issues in battling last week’s house fire (Tuesday, Aug. 29) on North B Street. Fire cause is undetermined.



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Grangeville firefighters were challenged with multiple issues in battling last week’s house fire on North B Street. Here, firefighters douse the ceiling, bringing down a shower of sparks.

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North B Street home structure fire, Tuesday, Aug. 29

— The fire at the North B Street home worked across and melted the vinyl siding, igniting the underlying cedar.

“Once the fire got started under that, it was impossible to stop it,” said Fire Chief Bob Mager.

In a rare instance of coinciding problems, Grangeville firefighters faced a series of challenges and setbacks in battling a structure fire last Tuesday night, Aug. 29, that gutted a single-story home and outbuilding, and damaged a camp trailer.

Cause is undetermined, according to Mager, for the fire started between the house and garage. Owners Chris and Emily Schacher were insured; they and their two children were uninjured. One firefighter was checked out by EMTs after being struck in the head by a hose coupling but did not require treatment.

According to the Grangeville Police Department, Emily, while getting ready for bed, noticed flames inside the utility room at the rear of the house. Mager said the fire had likely been burning for some time at 319 North B Street prior to its discovery and report by a neighbor at 10:44 p.m. Initially reported as a backyard fire, the incident was quickly revealed to city police arriving on scene as a fully involved structure and wooden shed.

“It took us four minutes to get on scene, and it was involved good,” Mager said. Along with knocking down the fire, efforts were directed to prevent it spreading to adjacent structures, one of which was 15 feet away.

“It’s been a long time since we used that many hoses in an operation,” he said. With multiple incident locations needing attack, crews deployed six 1.5-inch lines, one 2.5-inch line and both engine-mounted deck guns. These last helped difficult areas, to cool the fire, and to also deliver a “rainfall” across the incident to prevent separate spot fires from developing.

Older home construction worked against firefighter efforts. A lack of firebreaks in the attic, Mager said, allowed the blaze to roll and spread unrestricted throughout the home.

And then the smoke.

“In my 23 years fighting fire, I’ve never seen smoke hit the ground like that,” Mager said.

With town in the upper 60-degree range and winds at 5 mph and less, a temperature inversion over Grangeville kept smoke from the structure fire at street level, extending a choking, eye-stinging smog across the block and side streets that at times was at near zero visibility. For firefighters not wearing airpacks, the smoke “chased people off hoses,” he said, and it caused a setback for about a half hour as crews had to be pulled out to await for it to clear.

By 12:30 a.m., firefighters were in mopup stage, clearing the scene about 2:30 a.m. Mager reported the structure a total loss; however, some contents – such as a box of photographs – were found to be salvageable. The family’s dog died in the incident.

Four vehicles and 19 personnel responded to the fire. Scene assistance was provided by the Grangeville Police Department, Idaho County Sheriff’s Office, Syringa Ambulance and Avista.

Community members have been providing items to assist the family. For those wishing to donate, an account has been set up at Wells Fargo.



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