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Dog dies in Duluth fire; house destroyed

Fire caused extensive damage to this house at 4525 London Road on Saturday evening. A dog perished in the blaze. (Steve Kuchera /

London Road was blocked off twice Saturday, once to make way for runners competing in Grandma's Marathon and then again later that night to accommodate firefighters fighting a raging house fire that killed a dog.

The Duluth Fire Department responded to a call at 4525 London Road a little after 8 p.m. Saturday and arrived to find flames billowing out of the house.

"As soon as we left headquarters and got on the freeway we could see the smoke, so we knew we were dealing with a significant fire," said Captain Corey Swartout, one of several firefighters on the scene.

Nobody was home, but owners Terry and Janet Block's golden retriever Peanut was inside along with Abby, a neighbor's dog their son, Steven, was looking after for a few days.

Abby was found deceased right inside the front door. Peanut, whom firefighters feared was also dead, was found alive after a firefighter heard a small yelp and used a thermal camera to locate the dog hiding under a table in the corner of the basement.

"It was really thick smoke down there ... I was surprised to find the dog alive," he said.

A firefighter carried the Blocks' roughly 13-year-old dog out of the house where he was given oxygen and then taken to an animal hospital. He was released Sunday in healthy condition, Terry Block said.

"It's a big relief," Block said about the family dog that essentially 'rules the roost' at home. "She is a part of the family."

Mike Pothast, Abby's owner, was informed of his dog's death while camping in the Boundary Waters. He came home to bury his dog and then headed back up north, Block said.

The Blocks' two-story home sustained about $200,000 in damage from the fire, which essentially wiped out the main level and caused extensive smoke damage throughout. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The family is staying at the Edgewater in Duluth while they wait to figure out if it's possible to rebuild in the same spot or move.

"It's kind of like when someone punches you in the belly," Block said, "you know you will be alright but it takes the wind out of you for a while."

Kelly Abu Azzam, a neighbor of the Blocks, said the event left a permanent black mark on an otherwise positive day.

"All the sudden it went from Grandma's Marathon and this great day to something so gloomy and horrible," she said. "[The Blocks] are such good people ... this is devastating."