Fire investigators say the blaze that severely damaged a Belleville home and left its five residents without shelter Tuesday night started near an outdoor wood pile.
Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour said Wednesday investigators could not rule out the improper disposal of hot coals from a wood stove as a cause of the blaze.
Three adults and two young children were able to exit the home safely before the fire spread into a family room and the home’s kitchen.
The family is in the care of the Red Cross.
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Firefighters were dispatched shortly after 7 p.m. to the two-story home at the corner of First and F streets and arrived to find the northern portion of the home engulfed in flames. Thick, dark smoke spewed from the home and into the surrounding neighborhood.
Pour said the home’s kitchen and family room were completely gutted by the flames and the rest of the home sustained heavy smoke and heat damage.
Neither the five residents nor any firefighters were injured.
Pour said the residents use a wood stove to heat their home. Their common practice, he said, is to clean the stove before firing it up, discarding ashes and old coals to make way for new fuel. He said discarded coals may still have been hot when they were discarded in a plastic bucket and set outside.
“We’ve seen this many times where people think coals are cool,” Pour said. He said it’s best to discard coals in a metal container.
Despite the heavy damage, Pour said the home is old, well-built and “saveable,” but it’s up to the homeowners and their insurer to determine whether to make repairs or demolish the house.