On Thursday, January 4, at 8:26 p.m. a call came in to the Langdon Fire Department that the Langdon General Store, located at 802 3rd Street, was on fire. When fire crews arrived, flames were shooting out through the roof of the 115-year-old Boyd Square building.
By Lisa Nowatzki
Alex Chaput, the owner of the building, was just sitting down to dinner when he got the call that Boyd Square was on fire. He and his wife, Vanessa, rushed out to the building to make sure his tenants, Eric Kelly and Kelly’s mother, Theresa LaBreck, were safe. After finding both safe and out of the building, the Chaputs attempted to salvage some of their family’s personal belongings stored in the basement of the building.
“The building is a total loss,” Chaput explained. When asked about where and what started the fire, Chaput did not have many answers. After speaking with the State Fire Marshal, the Langdon Fire Chief, and the insurance’s fire inspector, the best guess is the fire started in an unoccupied northwest apartment on the upper floor of the building.
Langdon’s Fire Chief, Lawrence Henry, said that we may never know what started the fire. According to Henry, some equipment has been pulled from the wreckage and will be sent off for testing to see if the equipment is faulty and could have caused the fire.
When Henry and Assistant Fire Chief Marty Tetrault arrived at the scene, they decided to call in firemen from Munich and the Cavalier Air Force Base. Nekoma and Wales fire crews were on standby just in case the fire spread.
Several firefighters at the scene stated that the fire burned at temperatures over 1,000 degrees; temperatures so hot that the concrete sidewalk in front of the General Store suffered some damage. Henry estimated that more than 100,000 gallons of water was used to control the flames.
When the fire started burning through the lower floor and visibility was near zero, the decision was made to pull back to a defensive position of containment and let the fire burn out.
“It was just too dangerous, [to risk anyone’s life],” Henry stated.
Around 4:30 a.m., the fire roared to life again.
“We had more flames at 4:30 than we had all night,” Henry shared. The wind had picked up and was carrying large embers two and three blocks away. For safety and containment purposes, all the firefighters were called back in to help with fire watches and patrols. “We did not want the fire to get out of hand,” Henry explained.
The fire investigation is still ongoing. As the lone tenant of the building, Kelly had to meet with the State Fire Marshall to discuss potential fire hazards and problems. Kelly explained that a lot of the outlets didn’t work and his light bulbs burned out really fast. Kelly also described part of a hallway ceiling leaking water and “caving in,” along with a wall facing the Post Office that bulged out. Kelly stated that he told Chaput about the problems, and Chaput told him that it was an old building.
Kelly, a Connecticut native, has lived in the apartment for more than two years. When he received a Facebook message that his apartment was on fire, he ran over to rescue his two pets-Eve, a puppy he received on Christmas Eve, and Nero, his cat. Everyone got out safely. Kelly was treated at Cavalier County Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation and released soon after.
Kelly and LaBreck lost everything in the fire. They are currently living with the Stremick family.
“I’m okay. I’m more worried about my mom,” Kelly replied when asked if he needed anything.
Chaput lost more than two-thirds of his family’s possessions. Just recently Chaput and his family had been using the building as a temporary storage area until the family home construction is completed.
Chaput states that he lost irreplaceable wedding and family photos, Christmas items, and children’s toys.
“We are so thankful that we have a home to go back to, unlike Eric and his mom,” Chaput said.
A fundraiser for Kelly and LaBreck was held on Friday, Jan. 12, at Sporty’s Bar and Grill. Kelly and LaBreck wanted to thank everyone for their help and generosity.
“Everyone has helped so much that it is overwhelming,” Kelly said.
If anyone wants to help, call Sporty’s at 256-2692 to donate.
See videos and photos on our website at www.cavaliercountyextra.com.