A house in Fairmont went up in flames around 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday, February 18. No one was around at the time of the fire, which raged inside the house until the unsuspecting owner went to let himself in.

“One of the owners came to the house and opened the door and it kind of flashed over on him. He didn’t realize it was burning inside,” said Jim Miller, fire chief for the Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Services.

“It wasn’t fully engulfed until he opened the door and then she exploded.”

Fifteen firefighters from the Fairmont and Windermere departments responded and had the fire contained within half an hour.

Even so, Miller said it was too late for the “very, very nice” two-story house at 5143 Wilder Loop Road, which was made of cedar inside and outside, including the roof.

The home and its contents were completely destroyed, although crews were able to salvage a car, motorcycle, skidoo equipment and chainsaws from the garage.

Crews did “a very good job. They knocked it down really quick,” he said. “It went well. We saved what we could and (had) no problems with (fire spreading to) the neighbours. About the best you could ask for when something’s fully engulfed.”

Miller said he and the owners’ insurance provider are continuing their investigations into the fire and its origin, although nothing is suspicious about the blaze.

“Nobody was here when it happened. Everybody went to work early in the morning and everything was fine when they left and it wasn’t when they came home,” he said.

Crews stayed onsite until 3 a.m. and returned later in the morning “just to keep it at bay,” he said.

A media update from the Regional District of East Kootenay said: “Although the home is a total loss, the crew did an exceptional job of keeping the flames isolated to the structure involved and away from the trees and neighbouring houses.”