North Custer volunteer firefighters were called out twice the morning of Sunday, Nov. 25, responding to a fire that destroyed a shed south of Challis and to a stovepipe fire in Challis.
A pet shed on U.S. Highway 93, belonging to Skyler and Laycee Cutler, burned to the ground, probably caused by a dog knocking over a heat lamp inside, Laycee Cutler said. The dog, a pregnant black lab-beagle mix named Blue, made it out OK, she said. The dog squeezed out between double doors accompanied by some family cats.
Firefighters responded at 11:34 a.m. By the time they arrived passersby and Laycee had mostly put the fire out, using water buckets since the garden hose was frozen. Skyler wasn’t home.
“There was no tragedy,” Laycee said. “The cats also made it out. We just have to build a new pet shed.” As an alternative, the couple is looking at a smaller, warmer insulated doghouse that will avoid the danger of a critter knocking over another heat lamp. In the meantime, the family is spoiling the animals by letting them stay in the house.
Jerry and Marci Dixon and son Rigin were among the first to stop and help.
“Jerry and his family did a lot to stop it,” Laycee said. “A whole band of people helped,” which kept the fire from spreading to the adjacent garage. “It was moving right along,” she said. Flames reached the top of the 6-foot tall shed and could have ignited the garage and a woodpile next to the house if not for the fast response of friends and neighbors.
While the excitement was going on, Laycee made her three young sons wait in the house, safely out of the way.
“”I’m very grateful to all the people who stopped,” Laycee said. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t have known what to do. This was my first time around fire.”
Creosote buildup around a stovepipe cap at the house Laura Hardin rents on Butte Avenue caused smoke to back into her house Sunday morning. She woke up early, added some wood to her fire and later woke up to blaring smoke alarms and a smoke-filled house. Hardin and her dog, Oliver, made it out safe and sound. There wasn’t enough creosote buildup to cause a fire since she’d had the stovepipe cleaned a month or so before, but there was enough around the cap to keep smoke from escaping.
Firefighters were called out at 8:13 a.m. They made sure there was no fire, checked for hot spots and cleaned the stovepipe. A neighbor later replaced the cap with a larger one that allows more airflow.
North Custer Fire Chief Launna Gunderson advises people with stovepipe or chimney creosote fires to throw a glass of water on the fire, close the door and damper down and let the steam rise to hopefully put the blaze out. It works more often than not, she said.
Preventive measures can be taken ahead of time, North Custer Fire Secretary Sandi Hammond said. Make sure your chimney or stovepipe is cleaned regularly, tap the inside pipe gently to dislodge creosote between warming fires and cleanings, heat with faster, hotter fires to burn off small amounts of creosote deposited by cooler, smoldering fires and don’t damp fires down all the way at night.