ELY – One of this city’s oldest houses went up in flames last Thursday afternoon. The three-alarm fire was reported just before 1 p.m. on June 4. Gusty winds fanned the flames and most of …
ELY – One of this city’s oldest houses went up in flames last Thursday afternoon. The three-alarm fire was reported just before 1 p.m. on June 4. Gusty winds fanned the flames and most of the structure was fully engulfed before firefighters arrived. Thick black smoke filled the sky and blew toward the Ely Post Office and Ely School buildings.
The homeowner, Paul Starkovich, was inside the building, located at 15 S Central Ave., across the street from the Ely Area Credit Union at the southwest edge of the downtown business district, with a friend and two dogs at the time of the fire, according to authorities. All made it out safely. Starkovich was taken to Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital and treated for injuries. He was treated for second-degree burns and sent home, according to his daughter-in-law Tasha Starkovich. “Later, he was brought back to EBCH,” she told the Timberjay, “and found out he had sustained a broken hip while trying to get out of the fire. He took an ambulance to Duluth where he had hip surgery that afternoon.” He is recovering and reportedly doing well.
“Our family friend, Lou, and two dogs made it safely out of the fire as well,” Tasha said. “Our cousin, Shane Starkovich, who lives in the upstairs apartment was not home at the time of the fire, as he was on a fishing trip with no cell service. He did not know anything about (the fire). He lost absolutely everything in this fire.”
A Fire Relief Fund is set up at the Ely Area Credit Union to help the family, under the names of Paul Starkovich and Shane Starkovich. “We greatly appreciate all the love and support already extended to our family,” Tasha said. “We absolutely cannot thank everyone enough!”
To donate: Ely Area Credit Union Paul Starkovich and Shane Starkovich Fire Relief Fund, 2 E Chapman St. ,Ely, MN 55731. For more information, call the credit union at 218-365-3131.
According to Ely Fire Department Chief Tom Erchull, Ely firefighters, the Babbitt Fire Department, and Ely Ambulance Service were simultaneously dispatched at 12:47 p.m. The Morse-Fall Lake Fire Department was also dispatched for mutual aid assistance.
“Arriving firefighters found a large portion of the house engulfed in heavy smoke and flames,” Erchull said in a press release. “The two male occupants made it outside, although one was taken to a local hospital with burns. Two dogs inside of the house were able to get out safely.”
“Through a coordinated operation involving all three fire departments, the blaze was contained to the house,” Erchull added. “The house received extensive damage and is likely a total loss.”
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Ely Fire Department, Ely Police Department, and the Minnesota State Fire Marshal’s Office. The Ely Ambulance Service provided medical standby and rehabilitation services to the firefighters, while the Ely Police Department, Lake County Sheriff’s Department, and the Ely Public Works and Utilities departments also assisted at the scene.
Power lines sparked and ignited, along with a power pole, near the structure as large crowds gathered to watch the inferno. Power was shut off for several hours in the vicinity. Internet service to businesses and homes in the area was also offline for several hours that day. Utility crews spent all day Friday restoring service.
Ely historian David Kess said the residence is commonly known as the Asa Camp house. “Camp Street was named after him,” he said. “The Asa Camp house is one of the oldest residences in Ely still standing.” The structure was reportedly built as a boarding house in the 1890s.
Before the fire, Kess was planning to write a Windows into Yesterday article about the house for the Ely-Winton Historical Society this summer. Look for more information in an upcoming issue of the Ely Timberjay.