For the week of February 3, 1999  thru February 9, 1999  

Elkhorn home destroyed by fire

Express Staff Writer

Only charred remains stand as a reminder of 100-foot-tall fountains of flame that engulfed this home under construction in the Sagewillow subdivision Saturday night. (Express photo by Charmaine McCann)

An Elkhorn home was engulfed by fire Saturday night, accompanied by 100-foot-long jets of flame shooting from an adjacent propane tank and a panicked herd of elk galloping through the sagebrush.

Still under construction, the house was in the Sagewillow subdivision, not far behind the Elkhorn Fire Department. Sun Valley Fire Chief Jeff Carnes said the house had been framed, roofed and had had windows and doors installed.

According to Carnes, the fire department received a call on the fire at 8:05 p.m. When firefighters arrived, Carnes said, "the whole place was on fire."

Carnes said firefighters had just begun to set up when he was notified of a 500-gallon propane tank located just behind the house. He said the propane was being used to heat the house for construction workers, and had recently been filled.

Carnes said that, reluctant to place firefighters within range of the tank, he initially used only a water nozzle attached to a 100-foot-high tower on a truck to wet down the fire and the tank. He said that three times, long jets of flame shot from a pressure-vent valve on the top of the tank. He said the tank "absolutely" could have exploded.

"It scared me to death," he said. "We kind of held back a little bit until the tank had cooled."

Carnes said once the tank was deemed to pose no further threat, firefighters brought hoses up to the house and had the fire controlled by 9 p.m. He said the fire was dead out by 4 a.m.

According to Carnes, 24 firefighters from the Sun Valley and Ketchum fire departments participated in the effort.

Carnes said the architect who had designed the partially built structure estimated its value at $650,000 to $700,000.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. According to Carnes, the Idaho state fire marshal was at the scene Sunday collecting evidence. Investigators, including those from the owner’s insurance company, will need to talk to contractors at the site to determine what equipment was there that could have sparked the blaze, Carnes said.

A herd of elk being fed behind a neighbor’s barn was spooked by the fire and "were running all over the hillside," Carnes said.

He said the closest house to the one on fire was at least 600 feet away and never in danger of catching fire.


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