In one week there were six significant, multiple fatality fires that killed 23 people across the nation. This is in addition to the many fires that each claimed the lives of one or two victims.
Significant, Multiple-Fatality Fires (three or more deaths per incident)
Incidents identified through media sources
Adults 30 (60%)
Children 20 (40%)
Maps 2010 2009 2008 2007 Spreadsheet 2010 2009 2008 2007
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The Columbia Falls Fire Department received a call from a neighbor of the home reporting flames at around 6 a.m., according to Fire Chief Rick Hagen. When firefighters responded to the residence, located at 1690 North Fork Road, flames were coming out of the west-facing windows of the single-level, wood-frame home.
Fifteen Columbia Falls firefighters arrived on the scene with two engines, two water-tenders, a heavy rescue vehicle and a command vehicle, Hagen said. Engines from the Badrock and Blankenship rural districts also assisted, resulting in 25 firefighters on the scene.
With information that there were possibly victims inside, firefighters searched the house and recovered the bodies of the three victims, as well as the bodies of two large dogs.
Firefighters were able to "knock down" the major flames within about 10 minutes, but extinguishing the fire completely took an hour, Hagen said.
One-third of the house suffered fire damage, and the rest suffered smoke and heat damage.
The Flathead County Arson Investigation Team and the state Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the cause and origin of the fire, but Hagen said it looked as if heat from a woodstove ignited combustible material during the night, and by the time a neighbor called the fire department, it had been burning for "a considerable period of time prior to our notification."
Walking through the home, Hagen said firefighters found one smoke detector in a bedroom that had sustained almost no damage, but the battery had been removed. In the hallway and other bedroom, the heat had melted the plastic of the other two smoke detectors, but neither had a battery either.
"Had even one of these been operational I'm pretty convinced that they would have gotten out of the structure in time," Hagen said. "With no smoke alarms, they weren't able to get that early notification."
"That's what I hope everybody gets out of this whole tragedy," he added.
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