WALLACE – One of Wallace’s most recognizable homes went up in flames on last Friday afternoon when a fire broke out in the attic of the historic White/Magnuson house.
Shoshone County Fire District No. 1 Captain John Miller reported to the News-Press that fire crews were dispatched to the incident on Aug. 16 at approximately 2:50 p.m. At that time, SCFD No. 1 had two firefighters on shift at their station in Wallace.
While en-route to the home on the corner of Cedar and 3rd Street in Wallace, dispatch told the crews that the fire was “spreading rapidly,” so the decision was made then to call for backup from other local agencies.
The first emergency personnel on scene were members of the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office, who quickly began to establish a perimeter and do what they could to limit the spread of the blaze.
Before the first fire crews arrived, they were informed that the home had been evacuated and no one was inside. This allowed them focus solely on fire suppression and property saving efforts.
With the combined efforts of SCFD No.1, No. 2 and the Mullan Volunteer Fire Department, hose lines and fire engine cannons were established on almost all sides of the home to keep the fire from moving from where it already was.
Cpt. Miller and Fire Marshal Jason Blubaum (who inspected the scene the following day), believe that the point of ignition was a central area of the attic/roof.
In addition to the ground assets, Sheriff Mike Gunderson himself commandeered a Genie Lift that was on site to help the firefighters get an upper hand on the third floor blaze. The lift that Gunderson utilized was there as part of roofing project that was going on at the residence at the time of ignition.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that the cause of the fire may be related to this roofing work, but as of Aug. 19, officials simply state that this is still under investigation. The roofers with All Ways Roofing and Siding were in the process of reshingling the entire roof that day and were reportedly using a propane torch as part of their work.
All Ways Roofing and Siding owner Scott Stevenson declined to comment on the situation.
As most of the fire crews focused on putting out the fire, other emergency personnel rushed into the home to save as many historical documents/ important personal belongings as they could.
The over 100 year-old structure was the home of Elsie and the late Judge, Richard Magnuson. Richard was an avid history buff and had collected a treasure trove of historical documents and items pertaining to Shoshone County and the region.
Miller states that with the help of others in the community, crews were able to save a significant amount of the belongings. The team effort to remove these items from the home was spurred not only to protect them from the fire, but also to keep them away from the massive amounts of water being poured on the structure.
This constant flow of water was so intense that pumps and barriers had to be set up to stop flooding in the neighboring home.
Firefighters made entry to the home several times throughout the incident and were only forced out once when a section of the roof collapsed in the attic.
The main factors that contributed to the cave-in were a weakened structure due the fire, plus the weight of the water and concentrated packages of roofing shingles stacked in a single location.
After six-hours, fire crews finally had the situation under control. During those hours, bystanders flocked to the scene to snap photos and even shed some tears as they watched the historic home burn.
Smoke from the fire was seen by many, as the blaze started during the first day of the Wallace Jeep/Huckleberry Festival, which was operating primarily in downtown Wallace.
While the home is not being declared a total loss, as the fire was largely kept to the roof and third-story, almost all of the structure received a massive amount of water damage during suppression effort.
Elsie and others within the Magnuson family plan to restore the home to its former glory when possible.
Fire Marshal Blubaum is currently working in conjunction with SCSO Detective Jeff Lee to determine an official cause of the fire. No criminal charges have been filed regarding the incident as of Aug. 19.
The News-Press will provide more information about the incident if and when it becomes available.