Fire destroys another home

by Tom Coombe
For the second time this month, an Ely home went up in flames and was destroyed by fire.
Tuesday afternoon, fire crews arrived at 131 East Conan Street to find the structure completely ablaze.
Nobody was injured in a home that belonged to Scott Matschiner, according to Ely Fire Chief Tom Erchull.
One dog inside the home was able to escape while another is believed to have perished in the blaze.
The home was damaged extensively and is considered a total loss, while two adjacent homes had moderate damage and another had damage to its siding.
The devastation could have been even worse, according to Erchull.
“That’s why we had Morse (Fire Department) go down to Central Avenue,” said Erchull. “That easily could have been the whole block when the houses are three feet apart. I thought it was going to be the whole block.”
The Ely department was dispatched around 4:20 p.m., with the Morse-Fall Lake and Babbitt departments also providing assistance.
Fire crews were on the scene for several hours and were seen carrying hoses for several blocks.
“One five-inch line was moved to First Avenue to improve volume,” said Harold Langowski, the city’s clerk-treasurer and operations director. “Three five-inch hoses draw a lot of water.”
Erchull added “We had to stretch the hoses farther because the city’s got small lines in that area.”
The Ely Ambulance Service provided medical standby at the scene, along with rehabilitation services to the firefighters. The Ely Police Department and St. Louis County Sheriff’s Department provided traffic and crowd control while the Ely Public Works Department and Ely Public Utilities Department also assisted at the fire.
The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Ely Fire Department, Ely Police Department, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office.
“It’s still under investigation,” said Erchull. “It probably will be for awhile. It’s pretty hard to tell anything when there’s that much damage.”
The fire came on the heels of an early-June fire that destroyed a Central Avenue home owned by Paul Starkovich, who suffered a broken hip while escaping the blaze.