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Forum Communications Co., Published January 16 2011

Mayville house fire keeps 3 departments battling snow, cold and blaze

Firefighters from three departments have been battling a house fire all day in the heart of Mayville, N.D., and they won’t be able to leave the scene for some time.

“We will be babysitting this for quite a while,” said Aaron Lande, president of the all-volunteer Mayville Fire Department at about 2 p.m. His firefighters were joined by volunteers from fire departments from next-door Portland as well as Hillsboro, bringing a total of about 30 to the job.

The fire was reported about 8:20 a.m. today in a larger, older home just a half-block south of Old Main, the center of Mayville State University’s campus. It appeared to have started in the basement, but firefighters have not been able to get inside the house much, Lande said. “Heavy smoke was coming out the top of the attic,” he said of the scene when they arrived in the unoccupied house. “We tried to make entry, but there was fire in the basement.”

The home, long empty, recently was beginning to be renovated by its owner, Lande said.

“I would venture to say it’s a total loss at this point,” he said at about 2 p.m. It has no working furnace but did have electricity hooked up, he said.

The structure still was intact but the interior continued to harbor flames and smoke, he said. Firefighting was hampered by deep snow, frigid conditions of near-zero temperatures that slowed down truck action and firefighters, he said. Firefighters successfully concentrated on keeping the fire from spreading to a garage on the lot as well as nearby homes, Lande said.

One of the adjacent houses is the former college president's house, which hasn't been used for that purpose for two decades.