Fire destroys 5th Avenue home, but leaves one happy surprise

A fire that apparently started in a carport burned a home on the south end of 5th Avenue Thursday evening.

The fire was reported by a resident just before 7:30 p.m.

Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District Battalion Chief Eli Harris said a carport attached to the north side of the house at 465 5th Ave., bordering the driveway connecting Oak Heights School with 5th Avenue, was “completely engulfed in flames” when firefighters got there.

A shop on the property was destroyed by fire last April following an explosion.

Thursday was drill night for SHFAD, so more help was immediately available, he said. The response included a total of 20 firefighters, two engines and the ladder truck, Harris said.

“The first 15 minutes was hard,” he said, noting that the flames were reaching the roof of the two-story structure when firefighters arrived. An RV parked just off 5th Avenue, next to the structure also burned.

Harris said initial efforts focused on simply keeping a neighboring house from igniting. Then they focused on keeping the fire from spreading within the house, which was split-level, with a staircase leading downstairs inside the front door. The ladder truck was set up

“We brought the engine up and put tons of water into it,” he said. “We decided to make a stop at the stairs.”

It took several hours to get the fire under control, he said.

The house is owned and occupied by Bob Davis, according to information gathered by the fire department, Harris said. He said a female resident came home to the empty house, saw a glow and realized it was on fire, and called it in.

She told firefighters that she was missing one of her dogs.

Harris said as he entered the building to inspect the damage, he went downstairs into the living room, which firefighters had doused heavily, and saw a patch of black fur.

“It moved,” he said.

The Labrador retriever that was missing had apparently burrowed under the couch and when firefighter opened the door to the house as they fought the blaze, that apparently provided enough oxygen to keep the dog alive.

“He stayed low,” Harris said, noting that the upper three or four feet of the walls of the room had melted from the heat. He said the dog may have passed out through part of the ordeal.

“He was down about as far away and as low as he could get.”

He said it took about a half hour for the dog to warm up to him enough to let him get a makeshift leash on him.

“He jumped in the truck,” said Harris, who took the dog to the fire station where his owners picked him up.

He said an investigation indicated that the fire started at a vent from a wall-mounted natural gas furnace that may have contacted something in the carport attached to the house.

“The only thing operating was that furnace. I assume something got leaned against it.”

Damage to the house, which was built in 1975, is estimated at $250,000, he said.