Sunday, September 24, 2023

Tragedy in North Fork

by By Larry Wilson
| December 21, 2022 1:20 PM

Our small, remote community is not used to tragedy. Even so, this last week a real tragedy hit us when we did not expect it.

A nightmare fire destroyed a home, killed the bachelor inhabitant and his dog, leaving the entire community in shock.

The fire was reported at 6:02 a.m. when a neighbor saw the flames. It had obviously started some time earlier as the house was pretty well engulfed in flames and the roof was in flames. Fire trucks from Blankenship and Columbia Falls arrived about 7:30 a.m. and the house was pretty much burned to the ground. Afterwards, the bodies of a man and a dog were discovered in the debris.

Assumption is that the bodies were Doug Barnes and his handsome yellow lab, Whiskey. That will still have to be established officially. Likewise the cause of the fire has not been determined and officials are still trying to identify next of kin.

Doug and Whiskey were not known for socializing, but they were known by everyone since they frequently were seen walking on the main road. Whiskey would frequently walk out to stop my vehicle and he would share wags and kisses with my chocolate lab, Cindy, while Doug and I chatted. Our dogs were second generation friends since both Doug and I always had labs and our acquaintanceship spanned something like 15 or more years.

I mourn their loss but am thankful for whoever wrote the obituary in last week’s paper. Whoever wrote it did an excellent job and captured their love for the North Fork.

Few people seemed to know the Barnes couple really well except perhaps workmen whom Doug hired to work on his property, but the entire community admired his independence and his friendly attitude when met on the road.

Since the fire is not technically a crime scene, neighbors have ribboned it off and are keeping watch so that vandals do not enter and until relatives can be found. Curiosity seekers can view from the main road, but we urge the public to stay off the property.

Forty to fifty locals gathered for a candlelight vigil on Friday evening, several spoke and letters from people who could not attend were read.

Our thoughts are with Doug and Whiskey, wherever they are this Christmas.

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