Forum staff reports, Published January 19 2012
Fire blamed on space heater destroys rural Casselton farmhouse, injures owner
The fire at the Phillip Pender residence about two miles west of Casselton near Interstate 94 was called in just before 8 a.m.
Pender was home when the fire broke out, according to Cass County Sheriff's Deputy Jade Van Den Einde. Pender suffered some smoke inhalation and slight burns on his hands, Casselton Fire Chief Tim McLean said. Pender was treated in an ambulance on scene and taken to a Fargo hospital.
McLean said the one-level house was a total loss. The accidental fire is believed to have been caused by a space heater in the breezeway of the house, he said.
"I don't know if it was too close to something or something was leaning on it or what," he said.
McLean said the extreme cold caused problems for firefighters, as some hose fittings and firefighters' airpacks were freezing up. But the biggest concern was firefighters slipping on the ice that formed as crews dumped some 25,000 gallons of water on the fire, he said. No firefighters were injured.
The farmstead has a narrow driveway leading up to it, and fire trucks and crews were right in the line with billowing smoke and steam being driven by wind from the west.
"That steam, you couldn't see anything," McLean said.
An ember from the fire landed on a nearby old barn and started its shingles on fire, but firefighters put it out right away, McLean said.
Smoke from the fire was clearly visible from Interstate 94 from at least 10 miles away.
Trained disaster volunteers from the American Red Cross are also responding to the fire and assisting the family, according to a release from NaDean Schroeder, American Red Cross regional communications officer/regional development coordinator.