By Tim Leeds
An unattended candle started a fire early today that left a Havre woman homeless.
The 3:30 a.m. fire, the third fire in Havre started by candles in three months, made the rental home in the 1300 block of Fifth Street unlivable.
Jeanie Cole said she doesn't know what she will do now.
"I just have to find some place to stay, find a new place to live," she said.
Havre assistant fire chief Tim Raines said the three recent fires illustrate the need for caution with candles.
"Candles are so popular these days," he said.
Raines said Cole's son, Drew, apparently fell asleep and left a burning candle unattended, which started an upstairs curtain on fire.
Cole said the fire woke her son, who came downstairs and woke her.
The Fire Department responded with two fire engines, an ambulance and 13 firefighters. Raines said the damage was contained to the one home, but caused extensive damage to the main floor and upstairs of the building. The firefighters contained the fire within an hour, he said, but weren't back from mopping up the last hot spots until 10:30 a.m. today.
Raines said smoke detectors were in the building, but they weren't working.
"They were pretty fortunate to get out safe," he said.
No one was injured, and firefighters rescued two pets from the building.
"The cat survived and the bird survived," he said. "We got 'em out, which is pretty amazing, I guess."
Cole said her dog came out of the house with her and Drew. She is very happy that the firefighters were able rescue her other pets.
"I was so surprised that that bird was alive," she said.
Mort Goldstein, who is helping the Coles as they try to salvage their belongings and decide what to do next, said the family has received many offers of help. Drew, a premed student at the University of Montana, is home for the holidays and will be returning to Missoula.
The Bear's Paw District of the American Red Cross is coordinating relief efforts for the family.
It was the second fire for Havre firefighters in less than 12 hours. Raines said the department responded to a fire on U.S. Highway 2 East just before 5 p.m. Tuesday. That fire, apparently started by an electric heater, did extensive damage to the basement of an unattended house before burning itself out.
The Havre Fire Department responded to two candle fires on the same day in September. Raines said one of the fires caused extensive damage to a woman's bedroom. While firefighters were at that home, the Fire Department received a call about another fire. The second fire caused some smoke and fire damage in a mobile home before the residents controlled it.
Raines said people who use candles need to be careful. Don't leave burning candles unattended, he said, and be sure to keep children and pets away from them. Don't put burning candles near flammable items, and make sure the candleholders are nonflammable.
For information about the Cole relief effort, contact the Red Cross at 265-1500.