Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Cause of Bellevue blaze undetermined

Family in search of accommodations

Express Staff Writer

The family whose 7,000-square-foot home in the Bellevue Triangle was destroyed by a house fire last week was still looking for a home to rent as late as last Sunday.

According to Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman, the investigation into the fire was nearly complete on Tuesday, and the displaced family—Derek and Emily Trent and their two children—was leaving the scene to look for a nearby home to rent. The Trents had been staying in a travel trailer on their property, Lassman said.

Derek Trent is the owner of a local construction company called Trent Construction Inc., Lassman said.

When asked if the family needed any assistance finding a place to stay, Trent indicated his family was doing fine.

"He declined and said, 'Thank you very much. I think we've got something lined up,'" Lassman said.

At 9:41 p.m. last Wednesday, Dec. 27, firefighters from Wood River Fire & Rescue, Hailey, Bellevue, Ketchum Rural and Carey fire departments responded to the report of a structure fire at the Trents' home on Eastfield Road, in the Eastfield subdivision south of Bellevue.

Lassman, who was the incident commander on scene, said an eyewitness reported that the blaze was initially a chimney fire. By the time Lassman arrived on scene, however, the fire had already spread into an adjacent attic.

Because the fire destroyed about 6,000 square feet of the 7,000-square-foot home, Lassman said he was unable to determine the exact cause of the fire.

The investigation did determine the general location in the upper portion of the chimney where the fire began, he said.

"It had extended from the chimney to the attic," he said.

Speculating as to the cause of the blaze, Lassman said the fire may have started because of improperly installed insulation in the area of the chimney, although he can't be sure because of the total devastation.

"There's no way we can tell that," he said. "It was certainly unintentional."

Based on what the Trents have said about the home and its contents, Lassman estimated the total value of the damage at $1 million.

Lassman said homeowners should have their chimneys professionally sweeped at least once a year—even if fireplaces are only used occasionally for aesthetic purposes. For those who use fireplaces more regularly as a source of heat, additional cleanings may be needed.

On Tuesday, Lassman clarified a comment he made after the fire last week regarding the Eastfield subdivision's accessibility to fire hydrants.

"When I said (there were) no hydrants, what I meant is that there are no pressurized hydrants hooked up to city municipal water."

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