House ‘total loss’ following afternoon fire in Fergus Falls [UPDATED]

Published 11:15am Friday, July 19, 2013 Updated 11:18am Friday, July 19, 2013

A Fergus Falls one-level house is pretty much a total loss after an attic fire Thursday afternoon. Fire Chief Mark Hovland said he couldn’t pinpoint exactly, but his assumption is that the fire was electrical.

Brent Oland and his girlfriend Stacey Bengston were outside their residence at 518 West Maple Avenue when they smelled smoke.

“We were cleaning out her car,” Oland said. “First I smelled it. I didn’t know where it was coming from.”

Then they saw the smoke pouring out of the attic and called 911 at about 3:30 p.m.

“It sure got big quick,” Oland said. “It wasn’t even that much at first.”

The fire was contained to the attic. Most of the damage to the house wasn’t from flames but from water, which is to be expected, Hovland said.

“We were able to pull a few items out of the main floor,” Hovland said. “So they didn’t lose everything.”

Twenty-eight Fergus Falls firefighters responded to the scene, along with Elizabeth and Underwood fire departments, Fergus Falls Police and Ringdahl Ambulance.

Firefighters were on the scene until about 8 p.m. It took that long just to chop through the roof and pull down ceilings inside the house, Hovland said.

“There were a lot of hot spots,” Hovland said. “It was a long night. Plus, the weather didn’t help us at all.”

It’s hard enough with all the gear and equipment, Hovland said, then add the extremely warm outside temperatures to the mix and many firefighters needed to be cooled down at the scene with water bottles, wet towels and oxygen. The weather was a big reason why Hovland called for mutual aid.

“So we had to bring some fresh people in,” Hovland said.

Bengston was taken by Ringdahl to Lake Region Healthcare but not for injuries related to the fire. She was concerned about her cat, which was still in the house during the fire. Firefighters didn’t find the cat right away but located it later in a closet and it was OK, Hovland said.

Oland figured the fire was related to electrical problems they’ve had in the house.

“The ceiling fan shorted out about a half hour before this started,” Oland said.

Oland and Bengston moved to town about four months ago from the Morris area. They don’t have renter’s insurance, said.

“Renters insurance is so cheap, too,” Oland said. “Just didn’t get around to it yet.”

  • drbellows

    A waking nightmare. Sorry guys. I hope your recovery is swift.

  • P. Carlson

    Why would anyone go even one day without either renters insurance or homeowners insurance? That is just plain dumb. A very expensive lesson to learn for this couple. I hope everyone without insurance reads about this couple and buys insurance today.

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