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Erik Burgess, Published April 19 2014

Occupant escapes house fire south of West Fargo; home is a total loss

HORACE, N.D. – Kim Beckius was in the backyard of his home north of here enjoying the warm weather Saturday morning when he first saw the smoke and the flames.

They were coming from next door, the home of Henry and Gail Walkin, a retired couple who have been his neighbors since 1977.

The fire, which Beckius believes started near the sunroom in the back of the house, would eventually destroy the single-story rambler at 7113 Woodland Circle.

Gail Walkin, the only one home at the time, managed to escape without harm, said Cpl. Jade Van Den Einde of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

Hours later, as Beckius stood again in his backyard watching fire crews continue to soak the smoldering home, the flames were out, but the back corner of the home with the now-gutted sunroom was still smoking.

Through the large, shattered windows facing the backyard, the guts of the home were totally exposed – black, charred remains being batted around by the blast of the firefighter’s hose.

The chimney still stood, with scraps of roof clinging to the blackened brick.

“I think what they need is a bulldozer,” Beckius said glumly.

Emergency dispatchers received a call about the fire at around 10:10 a.m., Van Den Einde said.

When deputies and fire crews arrived, the house was engulfed in flames. The house is a total loss, and the cause of the fire is under investigation, Van Den Einde said.

When she first smelled the smoke, Gail Walkin was on the other side of the house, away from the flames, Beckius said.

The Walkins’ other neighbor, who happened to be a firefighter, banged on the door to warn Gail, Beckius said.

The Horace, West Fargo and Davenport fire departments, FM Ambulance, the Cass County Sheriff’s Department and the Salvation Army responded to the scene.

“They had the whole house surrounded with fire hoses,” Beckius said. “It just went so fast. It was unbelievable.”

“I’ve never seen a house fire like that,” he added.

So, as Beckius stood in his backyard, watching the fire crews dampen the remains of the home, he mourned the Walkins’ loss, saying they’ve worked hard for what they have.

Still, he said he and his neighbors can only be thankful that the fire didn’t happen Friday, when the winds were much stronger.

“Then it would’ve really been ugly,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518