Blaze destroys Tote Road home

Posted: Friday, February 18, 2011

A structure fire off Tote Road destroyed a two-story residence and killed two pets late Wednesday morning.

Photo By Gary Hale/Central Emergency Services
Photo By Gary Hale/Central Emergency Services
A two-story residence belonging to Kerry and Deborah Marshall burns late Wednesday morning. The house, located at 49157 Melott Avenue, off Tote Road, is thought to be a total loss.

Kerry and Deborah Marshall, the owners of the Melott Avenue home located about six miles south of Soldotna city limits, suffered an estimated loss of $550,000. The responding agencies were able to save two small dogs from the burning building, but another dog and cat belonging to the couple were unable to escape the blaze.

"It's probably a total loss," Fire Marshal Gary Hale said of the house. "We had 60 to 70 percent fire damage, and the rest is heat, water, and smoke damage."

Nobody was home when the fire started, as Deborah was working and Kerry was away in Washington state.

Around 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, 911 dispatch began to receive calls reporting heavy black smoke emanating from the woods in front of the Marshall household. As time ticked by, the volume of calls increased, now with neighbors describing flames in addition to the smoke.

As the building is situated 1,100 feet off the roadway up a windy, secluded drive, "callers were having a hard time pinpointing the exact address or providing correct directions to the fire," Hale said.

The first engine, from the Soldotna Fire Station, arrived 19 minutes after the alarm sounded. But by the time the engine reached the two-story wooden residence, it was already engulfed in flames.

As a result of the extensive damage to the unstable second floor of the building, "Fire Command declared the fire a defensive attack, until additional resources (apparatus and manpower) reached the scene," Hale said.

"Fire suppression crews were hampered in their efforts to extinguish the fire when they were confronted with missing sections of the floor, located on the second story," Hale added.

Still, the crew had the fire under control within 76 minutes of arrival, and "out" after another three hours. The 2,600 square-foot building sustained severe fire damage on all floors, including the basement, and the entire contents of the second floor were destroyed.

Fire investigators suspect the failure of the wood stove piping to be the cause of the fire, as fire patterns suggested that the house's wooden framing was exposed to extreme radiant heat from the stove pipe, sparking the wood's ignition.

Hale said that once the fire vented through the floor, it spread rapidly, "reaching the outer interior walls and consuming everything in its path."

Deborah Marshall said she did not want to talk about the fire at this time.

Karen Garcia can be reached at

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