By BRIAN WALKER
POST FALLS — Chad Hartman had only been asleep a few hours when all hell broke loose.
The smoke alarm sounded just after 2 a.m. on Friday, and the Post Falls man initially thought Robert Darling, his roommate, left something burning on the stove.
"I didn't smell anything in the bedroom, and I was ready to yell at him for not fanning the smoke," said Hartman, a member of the Idaho Army National Guard.
But Darling wasn't home and the stove wasn't on.
That's when Hartman realized fire had engulfed his garage with his 2017 Toyota Tacoma and Darling's 2016 Ford passenger car inside.
"I put on my socks, grabbed my cellphone and ran out the door," Hartman said. "I didn't have time to think about anything else. The fire was so bad that I couldn't go back inside after calling 911. I wanted to go back in, but couldn't do anything about it."
The fire, which had ripped through the garage and extended into the second floor of the home and the attic, destroyed both vehicles, killed Darling's dog and caused more than an estimated $200,000 in damage to the home at 1700 N. Stagecoach Drive.
Hartman, the owner of the home, has insurance.
He said he's fortunate to have survived and is thankful for the smoke alarm.
"It was only three weeks ago and the batteries were chirping because they were low so I replaced them," Hartman said. "I only wish now that I had an alarm in the garage."
Kootenai County Fire and Rescue Chief Warren Merritt said the incident underscores the importance of having working alarms.
"He was fortunate to have one," Merritt said.
The cause of the fire based on the preliminary investigation appears to be inappropriate clearance for the furnace in the garage. An investigation continues.
The fire displaced Hartman and Darling. Hartman said he's staying with his girlfriend in the interim, while Darling is staying with a co-worker.
When fire crews arrived, the garage was fully involved and the fire had extended to the second floor and into the attic.
"Firefighters did an excellent job of knocking this fire down quickly," Merritt said.
KCFR fire marshal Jeryl Archer said the fire caused heavy smoke damage throughout the home and damaged the upper floor.
Post Falls Police assisted by evacuating neighbors.
KCFR firefighter Local 2856 assisted the victims through its benevolent fund.
"I can't say enough about their generosity," Hartman said.
The last fire crews left the scene at 5:41 a.m. Coeur d'Alene Fire assisted KCFR during the fire.