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Friday morning fire guts house

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By John Barnhart

A Friday morning fire gutted a house on U. S. 460 a few miles west of Bedford.

Russell Stevens, Bedford's fire chief, said the call came in around 7 a.m. Flames were shooting out of the front of the house when firefighters got there.

Stevens, who was the on-scene commander for the firefighters involved, said that it took between 35 and 40 minutes to extinguish the blaze. However, smoldering pockets inside walls and in the attic kept them on the scene until nearly noon.

The house was heavily damaged.

"It did a pretty good number on the whole house," Stevens said.

John Jennings, one of Bedford County's fire marshals, said that the fire began in the area of an oil-fired floor-mounted furnace. He believes that a furnace malfunction probably caused it.

"We had a very long smoldering type fire," Jennings said.

The fire burned its way into the ceiling of the first floor, which is also the floor of the second floor. Nobody was in the house during the night and a passerby called it in after seeing smoke coming from the house.

The house belongs to Mary Campbell. Campbell is only staying in the house part-time, spending the rest of her time in the home of one of her grown children. Some of her grandchildren's toys lying outside the house created concern when a state trooper arrived on the scene. Fearing that their could be people inside, the trooper kicked in the door. Jennings said that this allowed air to get to the fire. What had been a smoldering fire then turned to roaring blaze.

According to Jennings, Campbell had been trying to sell the house. After finding a buyer, she had moved her possessions out of the house. When the buyer's loan fell through, Campbell moved some of her stuff back in.

The house was insured and Jennings said the family had celebrated Christmas at another location.

Units from Bedford, Forest and Montvale responded to the fire.