By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
A fire that caused extensive damage Saturday to a house on Fourth Street started when one of the tenants discarded a burning cigarette, the Havre Fire Department said today.
"We're considering it unintentional," Fire Chief Dave Sheppard said.
The cigarette ignited cardboard boxes and leaves underneath a wooden deck in the rear of the residence, a rental property owned by Mike Peterson, Sheppard said.
Sheppard said the department has made a preliminary estimate of $85,000 in damage. However, he said, the department has not yet spoken with an insurance adjuster and does not know the market value of the home.
Sheppard said people need to remember to be careful about how they dispose of burning cigarettes.
"People need to be aware of the dangers of smoking, and of any open flame," he said. "We're in the middle of winter, but we've had four grass fires in the last month."
The house was occupied by Gary and Jessica Peterson and Tyler Skolrud, Sheppard said.
Neighbors reported hearing an explosion. Sheppard said the noise was probably caused either by the gas tank of a lawn mower or tires, still mounted on their rims, that had been stored under the deck. A natural gas line was venting and the gas was burning, but that would not have caused an explosion, he said.