Blaze erupts at Kingsbury residence

A shake roof caught fire Thursday morning in an Upper Kingsbury neighborhood, causing damage to the home and sending its occupants into the street.

A preliminary investigation indicates the fire, reported shortly before 10 a.m., started in the area of the woodstove chimney pipe, said Tahoe Douglas Fire Battalion Chief Dave Hekhuis. A damage estimate hadn't been released.

The shake roof "was definitely a factor" in the spread of the fire, he added.

Once firefighters initially doused the fire with foam, flames appeared 10 minutes later in another section of the roof.

The home, at 152 Bigler Circle, is divided into two units, each with woodstoves. Tenant Deanne Lee said she had built a fire in the unit's small woodstove to warm up the house.

A neighbor, who was outside at the time, discovered the fire, called 911 and told Lee and her family their house was on fire.

The occupants of both units said they had previously reported problems and concerns regarding fire hazards to their landlord.

Lee said wind had knocked down the chimney last year and she hired someone to fix it before the cold weather set in. Lee said she uses the small woodstove to heat the house, which is occupied by her family.

When the property manager paid Lee for the chimney repair, Lee said the repairman warned her about the shake roof and the possibility of fire. She said she told her landlord what the repairman said.

"You get to like where you live. I even want to buy the place if it ever becomes available, so I don't want to create problems. But maybe this is some kind of blessing," she said of the fire.

The other tenant of the property, Sasha Russell, said she is moving and isn't afraid to speak. She said she advised the property manager last year that she felt the shake roof was unsafe, and that her own chimney needed work.

The one time she built a fire in the woodstove, her unit filled up with smoke, she said. When she told the property manager that she wanted the chimney fixed, she said she was told to "not have fires."

The property manager, Nan Hart of Marla Bay-based Tahoe Management Company Inc., acknowledged the home has a shake roof "just like a lot of homes" in the basin.

She said the tenants hadn't discussed their concerns directly with her, adding the property management company has all of its chimneys cleaned on an annual basis.

"The woodstove probably got too hot," Hart said. "Fortunately the fire department got there in time."


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