Dave Park and his family were only gone for about an hour on Sunday when he suspected that something was awry after arriving home at 2007 Ida St.
“I smelled smoke and ran up to the front porch,” Park said.
When he opened the front door, a wall of smoke hit him in the face.
He tried to inch into the house but didn’t get far before he had to turn around.
“I started getting burned and just backed out,” Park said as he coughed and spat, watching five Billings Fire Department trucks, one tender truck and Battalion Chief Boyd Vopel try and halt a blaze that had burned through the center of his home.
Fire crews were dispatched at 12:53 p.m., and when they arrived, smoke could already be seen billowing from the home. The tender truck was required because the distance to the nearest fire hydrant was too far for only engines to be used, Vopel said.
Park, his wife, their seven foster children and the family cat were able to get out of harm’s way, but their three dogs weren’t so lucky.
“I tried to get to the dogs but the whole house was on fire,” he said. “They were in their kennels, I’m sure crying, and I couldn’t even save them,” he said.
Park, a metal worker, said he had no idea how the fire started. The family had cooked breakfast about 90 minutes before they went briefly to Lake Elmo, but they were careful to make sure everything was turned off before leaving.
“We always double check the house,” he said.
The family has owned the home for a little more than a year, and he said he had made sure to adequately insure the contents and structure, but priceless items and a hefty amount of remodeling was ruined, he said.
“I’ve got 50 grand in it this year,” he said.
Park said he thought that he was still in shock and would probably be upset when he couldn’t tuck his children into their beds. He’s confident that the family could overcome the setback, but upset because he has to start over.
“We’re going to be fine,” he said, “but man, I just had it the way I liked it.”
The fire caused $300,000 in damage to the house, and the cause is still under investigation.