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January 3, 2014
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Fast-moving fire consumes Sutherlin house, kills dog

SUTHERLIN — A fire that killed a dog and destroyed a house at 327 Kruse St. on Wednesday night quickly filled the home with smoke as flames spread rapidly, the homeowner said today.

“It came down like a trailer house. Within five minutes, it was gone,” said Arlene Gilstrap, 62, who lived in her house with David Thompson, 52.

The fire started at about 7:10 p.m. in a laundry room and had engulfed the home and was threatening a neighboring house by the time firefighters arrived four minutes after being dispatched.

Gilstrap said she and Thompson were in another part of the house when they heard glass breaking in the laundry room.

They thought it was a cat fight, said Gilstrap, who is staying at a Sutherlin hotel.

“When we opened the back door, it was already totally ablaze,” she said.

Flames rushed through the door and into the kitchen, bedroom and living room, she said. Black smoke immediately engulfed the home.

“It was black smoke from the floor up,” she said. “By the time it hit my knees, I was out the door.”

Gilstrap and Thompson and three dogs escaped unharmed, but one dog perished in the burning home.

Miss Bessie May, a 10-year-old pit bull mix, was scared by the loud noises and ran and hid under a bed when windows started cracking, Gilstrap said. They tried to call May out of the house, but she remained under the bed and likely died from smoke inhalation, Gilstrap said.

“It was so bad nobody could go back in,” she said.

Douglas County Fire District No. 2 Deputy Chief Rob Bullock said the house is likely a total loss and was uninsured.

According to the Douglas County Assessor’s Office, the house and land were valued at approximately $65,330.

The neighboring home received some damage, Bullock said.

Firefighters arrived and had the blaze under control within about 25 minutes, officials said. They remained on scene for about two hours looking for embers and returned Thursday to determine a cause, officials said.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined, Bullock said.

“There’s too much damage to be able to track down exactly what it was,” he said.

Gilstrap said she thinks a hot dryer cord sparked a fire that spread through a wall.

The Red Cross will put Gilstrap up in a hotel until Sunday, and her two daughters are working to get her a trailer until she can get the property cleared.

Gilstrap said she will either put up a mobile home or try to rebuild.

Gilstrap thanked neighbors for bringing her a jacket after the blaze and the fire department for their quick response.

Fire District 2 was assisted by the Oakland Fire Department, Sutherlin police, Pacific Power and Avista Utilities.

• Reporter Betsy Swanback can be reached at 541-957-4208 or

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The News-Review Updated Jan 3, 2014 12:27PM Published Jan 9, 2014 12:52PM Copyright 2014 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.