By BRIAN WALKER
POST FALLS — Bill Tarnasky may have lost an estimated $875,000 worth of vehicles, equipment and structure during Tuesday night’s storage building fire, but that isn’t breaking his spirit.
“We will recover and worse things could happen,” he said about the fire on his property at 5111 W. Prairie Ave., which destroyed the 50-by-150-foot Quonset hut and all of the contents inside.
“When you look at all the devastation in life now, there’s no long-term consequences with this except maybe financial. The way I look at it, there was a lot of messy equipment in there that I don’t have to take to the dump now.”
There were also not-so-messy items inside including two boats, a tractor, bailer, swather, trailer, tools and other property.
Tarnasky said he has insurance. A hired hand, not Tarnasky, lives at the property.
Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Chief Warren Merritt said it’s believed the fire started when the hired hand used a chop saw to cut a pipe.
“More than likely a spark got to some kind of combustible,” Merritt said. “He was about to crawl back under a vehicle when he saw the fire. He said he thought about trying to put it out, but it was growing too fast. He elected to exit and that was a good choice. He was doing work toward the front of the building, which is where the origin of the fire was.”
Tarnasky said the insulated building was used as potato storage in the 1980s.
“The fire took off like a torch because of the insulation,” he said.
Merritt said KCFR received a report of the fire at 9:30 p.m. Smoke and flames were visible from the outside of the building when the first crew arrived on scene 8 minutes later.
“Firefighters were not able to enter the building because it was too dangerous and unstable,” Merritt said. “They made sure the fire did not reach other outbuildings. It was a defensive fire.”
Merritt said the building foundation can be reused.
There were no injuries.
Prairie Avenue between Meyer and Huetter roads was closed for about three hours with the assistance of the highway district and Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office. Avista responded to turn off the utilities to the property. Fire crews left the scene at 12:34 a.m. on Wednesday.
Coeur d’Alene Fire assisted with the fire, while Hauser Fire manned one of KCFR’s stations as all four KCFR engines were on scene.