Nation/World


Actress’s Hideaway Burns Summer Home Of Patty Duke And Husband Gutted By Flames

TUESDAY, FEB. 6, 1996

Patty Duke’s husband kept warm by the smoldering fire that was once his home.

With icy rain splattering his face, Michael Pearce watched Monday afternoon as the flickering remnants of a hungry fire finished off what had been a three-story summer hideaway for him and his actress wife.

Pearce had gone to the couple’s remote house early in the day to turn on the heat and prepare the home for Duke’s return to North Idaho this weekend.

But when he returned later in the day, the blaze had left only twisted metal siding, cracked cement walls and a smoking sun deck.

“All I wanted to do was warm it up,” Pearce said, sobbing. “How can I tell my wife when she’s 2,000 miles away?”

The blaze destroyed the home on Lake Coeur d’Alene’s Half Round Bay north of Harrison, consuming some of Duke’s acting awards and Pearce’s Army memorabilia.

Fire investigators do not know what caused the fire but will continue their investigation today.

Firefighters with the East Side Fire District were called to the burning home shortly before 2 p.m. Monday. The flames could be seen two miles away, the inky smoke plume from even farther.

Fire Chief James Trittin happened to be nearby at the time. “There were flames coming out every window,” he said. He called for firetrucks but then canceled the order.

“We realized we couldn’t get to it,” he said. “There’s no way to get in here.”

The home on Hawk Road was surrounded by knee-deep snow. The driveway, about a third of a mile long, lay invisible and impassable beneath the heavy drifts.

Even if firefighters had been able to get to the home, they wouldn’t have fought the blaze. Trittin discovered afterward that the house is not in the East Side Fire District and therefore has no fire protection.

Duke, also known as Anna Pearce, is an Oscar-award-winning actress famous for numerous television and screen movies. She became a household name in the 1960s when she starred in the TV sitcom, “The Patty Duke Show.”

Michael Pearce is a North Idaho native and former Army drill sergeant. The two married after falling in love on a movie set.

The couple now lives at a home in Coeur d’Alene and - until Monday’s fire - kept a summer and weekend home. The summer home, valued at $68,000, according to county assessor records, is surrounded by 40 acres of fields and trees.

The couple bought the place in 1988, shortly after moving to Idaho, Pearce said. They frequented the home in the summers and sometimes in the winters, he said.

Last winter, the pipes burst in the house, flooding it. The couple spent last summer having it remodeled, Pearce said.

For the past month, Duke has been gone from her Coeur d’Alene home to film a TV movie. Monday, she was in Los Angeles, Pearce said.

“We have this thing we do when she comes home,” he said. “We come out here and spend some time to get away from everything. We relax. There’s only one phone.”

Pearce said he drove to the home about 10 a.m. Monday. He tried driving a snowmobile down the driveway but it broke en route. He trudged the rest of the way on foot.

He shut the water and heat off months ago, before the freezing temperatures.

On Monday, he turned on all the heaters in the house, then returned to Coeur d’Alene. He just made it back when he got a call from a neighbor telling him his house was on fire.

“I can’t believe this,” he said Monday afternoon as he slogged through the snow for the second time that day.

His jeans soaked to the thighs, his jacket damp from the sleet, Pearce scanned the rolling hills looking for the top of his house. He saw only smoke.

“Don’t quote me if I start swearing,” he said with a wan smile.

Chief Trittin and a firefighter stood near the smoking remains to keep warm.

“Everything gone inside?” Pearce asked Trittin.

“There’s nothing,” Trittin replied.

As the sun went down, Pearce again picked his way through the deep snow, leaving the burned mess behind.

“You used to be able to see it from here,” he said, stopping to look back. “There were a lot of memories there.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Rich Roesler contributed to this report.

Cut in the Spokane edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Winda Benedetti Staff writer Staff writer Rich Roesler contributed to this report.


 
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