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Erik Burgess, Published May 31 2013

Cass still pursuing buyout of burned home

FARGO – Cass County officials still want to buyout a property that’s been on its flood buyout list for four years, even after a fire burned the home to the ground last week.

The home, 404 River Drive S. in Fargo, was a total loss in a May 21 fire, owner Richard Thomas told The Forum on Friday.

His home has been on the county’s buyout list since 2009. He and his wife Kathryn have lived there since the late-70s.

“We don’t know if we would have or would not have accepted a buyout, but this is a different picture now,” Thomas said.

Thomas’s home was one of about 50 on a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant that was approved in mid-May.

The estimated cost of the entire property was $230,875, said Irv Rustad, executive director of Lake Agassiz Regional Council. The county will be pushing forward with an appraisal and buyout offer for the lot and foundation, while Thomas’s insurance is likely to pay for the cost of the home, Rustad said.

Rustad, who has been appraising homes for buyouts in the area since 1997, said this is the first time a house on the buyout list has burned down.

Thomas said he didn’t know what officially caused the blaze that destroyed his home, but he said he was home stoking a small fire in the fireplace at the time.

“My belief is that the chimney system failed and the fire escaped from there,” he said.

Thomas said no one was injured in the blaze.

Firefighters from Horace responded. No one from the Horace Fire Department could be reached for comment Friday.

Thomas said he’d like to keep living in the area, but that he might have to pursue a setback waiver from the city in order to build there again, which was not required when he built his home in the 70s.

Thomas expressed gratitude to the first responders and to his neighbors.

“Everyone in our neighborhood offered us accommodations,” he said.