Two house fires, reportedly the result of problems with an electric heater and a chimney, damaged Chapel Hill homes this weekend.
According to a press release from the Chapel Hill Fire Department, a 15-resident home at 618 Sykes St. caught fire around 1:45 a.m. Friday.
Four fire engines, two ladder trucks, an assistant fire marshal and a battalion chief initially responded to the fire. All contents of the house were lost, and the house’s structure was significantly damaged.
The house was being heated by portable electric heaters, and the fire started near one of the heaters. The smoke detectors in the house were intact, but not properly functioning due to depleted batteries, according to the press release.
Hays Johnson, a resident of 617 Sykes St., which is across the street from the destroyed house, said fire was spilling out of the house.
“On the left-hand side of the house, there were flames just shooting out of the windows,” he said.
Johnson said he saw all of the residents evacuate the house. He said his roommate initially alerted him to the commotion, and they called 911 a little after 2 a.m. Another neighbor had already called by that time.
Leslie Baldwin, who lives at 620 Sykes St., said she also saw flames coming out of the house.
“I had a dog in the back that kept barking so that’s how I knew something was wrong,” she said.
Allison Johnson, a second-grader at Rashkis Elementary School who lives at 615 Sykes St., said two of her friends lived at the site of the fire. She said she saw big flames near the burning house’s bathroom.
“My mom woke me up,” she said. “I was scared about them, but my mom said they were OK.”
The Chapel Hill Fire Department was dispatched to a second fire at 108 Pitch Pine Lane at 7:38 p.m. Saturday. Three occupants were in the house at the time of the fire, but no occupants or firefighters were injured.
According to a fire department press release, a total of 24 fire personnel were at the site.
The fire started at the chimney side of the house but spread quickly to the attic of the home and the roof due to high winds.
The blaze was contained to that area of the house, but the winds and water from the fire hose made the roof slippery for firefighters.
After the fires, the Chapel Hill Fire Department issued recommendations for residents to always keep fresh batteries in smoke detectors and to professionally clean fire places, flues and chimneys at the beginning of every heating season.
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