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Agencies battle fire in Beltrami County

Firefighters responded early Saturday morning to a house fire on the 5200 block of Island View Drive Northeast. The Bemidji Fire Department remained on scene for 11 hours. Submitted Photo Courtesy Bemidji Fire Department

Bemidji firefighters were on scene for 11 hours in temperatures as low as 40 below zero as they fought to save a residence early Saturday morning on Island View Drive Northeast.

A report came into the Beltrami County Dispatch at 4:49 a.m. of a chimney fire on the 5200 block of Island View Drive Northeast. The Bemidji Fire Department issued a "sectional alarm" calling for about one-half of its workforce to respond.

But that call was quickly upgraded to a full "general alarm" to all available firefighters after it became apparent that the entire residence was in jeopardy.

There were 33 firefighters with two pumpers, three tankers and two pickup trucks.

Also responding was the Blackduck Fire Department with two trucks and several firefighters, the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office and Bemidji Ambulance Service. Deputy State Fire Marshal Kevin Mahle also was on scene.

Acting Fire Chief Kelly Skime said there was not a lot of smoke and flames visible upon first response, but firefighters observed, once they got inside, that the fire was below the floors.

The fire was under the floors, going through walls and reaching the space above the ceiling, he said.

The fire was particularly difficult, Skime said, due the location under the flooring.

After several attempts to gain control, firefighters ultimately found success utilizing a "piercing nozzle." The nozzle pierces through barriers and water and essentially floods the flamed areas.

The homeowner was home at the time of the fire, but was not injured.

The residence was a total loss.

The fire also was particularly difficult due to the temperatures. Skime said the temperatures were as low as 40 below zero.

Bemidji School District furnished a bus so firefighters could stay warm. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp personally served firefighters coffee.