Family Escapes House Fire Near Columbia Falls

By Beacon Staff

A mother and her two children narrowly escaped a fire that burned down their house near Columbia Falls on the early morning of Nov. 16.

The fire leveled the four-bedroom home on 1530 Middle Road at around 6 a.m. and left Hayley Matthews and her 12-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son with only the clothes on their backs.

“It’s in cinders. There’s only one wall left. The whole inside of the house is gutted,” she said while waiting at the local Red Cross for toothbrushes, soap and other necessities for her and her family. “It’s all gone.”

Matthews said she was told an electrical malfunction might have caused the fire, but fire officials are still investigating.

Bad Rock Rural Volunteer Fire Department, whose district the fire was in, responded to the incident along with the Columbia Falls and Creston departments. Bad Rock Fire Chief Kirk Katzenmeyer said the cause of the fire remains inconclusive, but he does believe it started outside.

“I don’t think we’re going to determine cause. We only write what we know as fact and I don’t want to speculate on anything,” he said.

Matthews said she woke up to a loud crackling sound just before 6 a.m. and stepped into the hallway to find flames climbing up the walls. Matthews quickly corralled her son and daughter, along with a new litter of puppies that had recently been born, and rushed outside. Matthews realized she had left the car keys in the house and ran back in to retrieve them. As she was exiting the windows exploded and the building became fully engulfed with flames, she said.

Matthews hurried next door to a neighbor’s house and alerted them to call authorities after numerous failed attempts at reaching 911 because of connection issues, she said.

Matthews, who owns Home Town Movies & More on U.S. Highway 93 South in Kalispell, said she and her family plan to stay with a relative who lives in the valley. Friends and customers from the movie store who know Matthews have already started donating clothing, money and overall support, she said. The family lost everything in the fire, including presents for Matthews’ daughter, whose birthday is Nov. 21, and school records that Matthews had organized as she prepared to go to college.

The family is accepting donations at Home Town Movies & More and at Eagle Satellite & Cellular One at 1645 U.S. Highway 93 South in Kalispell.

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