Were it not for an alert neighbor, an early-morning chimney fire that leveled a family’s home in Malta Monday could have been much more tragic.
Round Lake Fire Chief Frank Mazza said the neighbor walking his dog shortly before 6:30 a.m. noticed flames shooting from the roof of the home at 12 North Ridge. The neighbor first called 911 to report the blaze and then pounded on the door until the couple inside fled.
Mazza said the home appeared to have fire alarms, but apparently they didn’t rouse the family. He said the family escaped into the frigid sub-zero temperatures with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing.
“A couple more minutes and it would have been a lot worse,” he said.
Mazza was among the first on the scene and said the fire was already well-involved when he arrived. Firefighters battled the blaze and the frosty morning weather for roughly two hours before bringing the fire under control.
Temperatures dropped into the negative numbers Monday morning as crews began arriving. Mazza said it was 5 below zero when he arrived — cold enough that the water being trained on the fire was almost frozen as it hit the driveway and road.
Town crews assisted firefighters by salting the area as the battle continued. The cold was also causing firefighters’ air packs to freeze up, meaning crews needed to rotate out of service after about 15 minutes in action.
“It was extremely difficult,” he said.
The family had recently moved into the home. The fire apparently spread from the older chimney into the walls and attic.
The homeowners have a pair of children ages 7 and 13 who were apparently not home when fire broke out, authorities said. The home was a complete loss, they said. The Red Cross is assisting the family.
“There was nothing that wasn’t on fire,” Mazza said of the home. “It was the whole house.”