GLENDIVE — On Tuesday in Glendive, the Ponderosa building was considered a total loss and seven people were without homes after fire demolished the building over the weekend, said Glendive Fire Chief Russell Feisthamel.
“There’s not much of anything left," Feisthamel said.
The fire call came in around 7:45 p.m. Sunday night and crews finally cleared the scene around noon on Monday, but were called back about two hours later to put out flare ups. One last crew was dispatched on Tuesday to the Ponderosa building to put out any remaining embers.
It's still not known what started the fire. Feisthamel said the cause will eventually be released from the state fire marshal once the investigation wraps up.
The night of the fire, lifelong Glendive resident Donald LaPlante Jr. could tell something was wrong from the vantage point in his backyard from across town.
"A little after 2 o'clock in the morning, I let the dogs out to go to the bathroom in the backyard. I live on the complete opposite end of town, as far as you can get, on the other side of the river. I could see the smoke and the glow from the fire from Forest Park," LaPlante said.
Normally an outdoor photographer who uses his drone to document the yearly ice jams on the Yellowstone River, LaPlante went to work taking video of the building both before and after fire gutted it.
“You couldn’t mistake that it wasn’t anything but a fire, that’s for sure. When you had flames taller than any building downtown," LaPlante said. "It lit everything up downtown. Even coming across the bridge over the river. It was pretty big.”
The two-story building was the former home of a hair salon and four apartments. Seven people lost their homes, according to Glendive resident Jen Hawkinson, who works with LIFTT, a local nonprofit that connects people with disabilities to community resources.
Fiesthamel said a business's door south of the fire sustained damage when a brick wall fell. A used furniture store to the west that had a connected wall sustained severe water damage and a partially collapsed roof, Fiesthamel said.
Two firefighters were transported to a local hospital, but were released later that day, Fiesthamel said.
That still leaves people without their homes and possessions in Glendive. Hawkinson said some left the fire with only the clothes on their back and some even without shoes. She said clothes and food are the main things needed at this time.
"The big thing is that they all got out and they’re okay and no one got hurt. Everything else is just material and they can replace it. But I can’t imagine how much of a loss it is and just the setback in life," LaPlante said.
The Glendive Tractor Supply Co. at 2808 West Towne St. has been set up as a landing spot for donations. Other donations can be made by mail addressed to LIFTT at P.O. Box 1387, Glendive, MT, 59330. Make sure to note your donation is for fire relief.