By Patrick Winderl
A house caught fire Monday night, causing extensive damage and putting a Havre woman out of her home.
The owner of the house, Laura Kjersem, is living with her daughter until the building is repaired, her daughter, Dana Kjersem, said today.
Havre Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said emergency dispatch received a report of a structure fire at 7:54 p.m. at a residence in the 400 block of 10th Street.
Havre police officers blocked off the street between Fourth and Fifth avenues with their vehicles as firefighters entered the home. Two police officers secured the perimeter of the house for more than an hour while the fire crew worked inside the building.
"I saw firefighters go to the front door, knock on it, and then go in," said Justin Friede, who was visiting a nearby home. "They brought in a hose and a pump as two cops walked around the building. I saw what looked like steam or smoke coming out of the house, but I wasn't sure exactly what was going on."
The fire started in the living room, and engulfed several pieces of furniture before being contained, Sheppard said.
According to the Fire Department, Kjersem was at another residence across the alley when she saw smoke coming out of of her house and called 911.
Sheppard said the fire was started when a lit cigarette was placed in a garbage can.
"The fire caused extensive damage to furniture in the home and smoke damage to the main floor," Sheppard said.
The Fire Department estimated the damage at $20,000 to $30,000, he said.
"Between the contents of the house and the structure itself, that's our best estimate," he said. "The insurance company will be responsible for determining the actual cost."
The fire crew returned to the station at 9:30 p.m., Sheppard said. He said the blaze was contained immediately, but the fire crew remained on the scene for another hour to ensure the fire did not start again.
Laura Kjersem could not be reached for comment today. Her daughter said Kjersem was working with an insurance company today to estimate the cost of damage and to begin repairs to the house.
The smoke damage to the building has made it unlivable, and Laura will live with her daughter for the time being, Dana Kjersem said.