ANACONDA – A title company building in Anaconda is destroyed after fire engulfed the structure early Tuesday morning.
First American Title Co., 601 E. Commercial Ave., was reduced to a charred shell by the blaze that started at about 4 a.m. and caused some further damage to a house next door. Nobody was injured.
The Anaconda Fire Department and State Fire Marshal conducted a joint investigation, and determined the fire started from a 1-gallon tin can used as an ashtray at the back of the building.
Fire Chief Steve Jorgensen said they could make out some cigarette butts in the can, but anything else thrown in is too burned to be determined.
Jorgensen does not suspect arson, and is ruling the fire accidental unless a witness comes forward with new information.
About 30 firefighters evacuated the block, as gusting winds put other houses at risk, Jorgensen said. Everyone has since returned to their homes.
“The potential was to take the entire block out,” Jorgensen said. “We were very lucky.”
The Georgetown Lake, Opportunity, West Valley and Lost Creek volunteer departments all helped get the fire under control within two hours. The building did not have a sprinkler system.
Flames caused smoke damage and shattered a number of windows to the house next door at 609 E. Commercial Ave. Residents Jim and Carol Davison said they are awaiting insurance estimates, but it could have been much worse.
“Things can be replaced. People’s lives cannot be replaced,” Jim Davison said.
Everyone in the house was asleep when the fire started, Carol Davison said. A neighbor came banging on their door and told them to get outside.
“We were screaming, ‘Get the water on!’” she said.
Jim Davison said he and his wife have to find a temporary place to live during cleanup.
The business building will be demolished, Jorgensen said. Branch manager Dottie Zimmerman said it is too early to know whether it will be rebuilt.
Two employees worked at the location, including Zimmerman, and she said they are looking for a new space to stay open while the corporate office sends over fresh supplies.
“It’s just a devastating loss,” she said.
Jim Davison, who is also the executive director of the Anaconda Local Development Corporation, said they will offer room at the Community Service Center for the business.
-- Reporter George Plaven may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.