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Firefighters quickly extinguish a small house fire caused by a burning cigarette

BEMIDJI -- It took firefighters less than ten minutes to arrive at a home in Northern Township, quelling a fire there, and it was within an hour that the blaze was under control and the scene was vacated Wednesday afternoon.

Crews from the Bemidji Fire Department were called at 5:24 p.m. to 7519 Hunter Drive NE. A man living in the home said an unattended can used as an ashtray was the source of the fire, which crept up vinyl siding on the front of the home and ignited insulation and wood in the attic.

Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said the siding, which has become a mainstay for coating exteriors of homes, is “extremely combustible” due to the amount of petroleum in the product.

The quick response by firefighters, many of whom were on hand for the Paul Bunyan Communications Cooperative Celebration that drew 7,000 people, saved the home from more extensive damage. In particular, Hoefer said, the homeowner’s attempt to extinguish the fire with a garden hose helped to keep the blaze from spreading too far into the attic, which requires especially difficult firefighting maneuvers.

“Once it starts to spread horizontally like that, it’s really a battle for us,” Hoefer said. “There’s no protection up there. Everything’s wide open with wood and insulation. But (firefighters) were able to pull some soffit down and put it out pretty quickly.”

At 6:23 p.m., 59 minutes after the 911 call, firefighters terminated command, officially ending their involvement at the home.

Justin Glawe
Reporting on crime, courts and Beltrami county government. Follow me on Twitter @JustinGlawe.
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