Elderly woman, at least 19 dogs die in house fire
Yellow police tape marked off a perimeter around a fire-damaged small, single-story gray house in the Riverside Park neighborhood Thursday in Grand Forks. Fire trucks and police cars were parked nearby as neighbors watched firefighters process th...
Yellow police tape marked off a perimeter around a fire-damaged small, single-story gray house in the Riverside Park neighborhood Thursday in Grand Forks. Fire trucks and police cars were parked nearby as neighbors watched firefighters process the grim scene.
An elderly Grand Forks woman died in a fire late Wednesday night that gutted the house at Fenton Avenue and North Fifth Street in Grand Forks north of Gateway Drive and several blocks east of Home of Economy.
The name of the victim has not yet been released pending notification of family members. The cause of her death has not been determined. The cause of the fire still is under investigation.
Firefighters also found 19 small dogs dead at the scene, according to Rob Corbett, the battalion chief on duty at the Grand Forks Fire Department. The dogs appeared to have perished as a result of the fire. Corbett said Thursday afternoon firefighters still were sifting through rubble at the scene and it was possible the bodies of more dogs could be found.
"This is by far the worst (fire) I've been at," said Grand Forks Fire Marshal Terry Wynne, who is in his 13th year with the fire department. "This is a tragedy that shouldn't have happened."
Neighbors said the victim was friendly but kept to herself and stayed inside most of the time. She used a scooter to get around but could walk.
"It's too bad," said one neighbor, who declined to be identified.
The victim was the only person home when the fire started.
Wynne said the victim's daughter, who also lives at the home, and her granddaughter returned to the house shortly before midnight Wednesday night and saw smoke coming out of the house. But Wynne said the door knob on the medal front door was too hot, and the daughter and granddaughter were unable to reach the victim.
He said the granddaughter reported the fire.
The Grand Forks Fire Department was dispatched to the house after receiving a call at 11:48 p.m. Wednesday night. Neighbors described seeing flames in the front window and smoke billowing out of the house about midnight, about the time the fire was reported.
Firefighters were unable to reach the victim and had to rip out a window and part of the wall of the bathroom, where the unresponsive victim was found. Fire personnel and paramedics attempted unsuccessfully to revive the woman.
Wynne said she was pronounced dead at the scene.
"That's a rarity," he said. "That doesn't happen too much."
Wynne said the bathroom where the woman was found was not burned in the fire but experienced extensive smoke damage and speculated that she may have been trying to get away from the fire, which burned part of another side of the house and the basement.
"She must have been trying to get out," Wynne said. "She couldn't get out the front door or the side door."
Firefighters don't have any damage estimates yet, but Wynne said he expects the house will be a total loss.
In addition to the Grand Forks Fire Department, investigators from the Grand Forks Police Department and fire investigators from the North Dakota State Fire Marshals Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms also were on the scene Thursday.
Corbett and Wynne both said it could take days for the cause of the fire to be determined.
"It will be a while before we know the cause of it," Wynne said.
Reach Schuster at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .