ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. --
The cold snap contributed to a damaging fire that spread through an Orange County home overnight. When the people inside the house on Gatlin Avenue (saw smoke, they just thought the fireplace wasn't working properly.
The homeowners didn't realize there was actually a fire until fire crews showed up. As a matter of fact, they didn't even dial 911; 911 called them.
Most of the damage was done to the rear of the home. In the front, all the windows were broken; firefighters did that to ventilate the home.
The family of four spent the morning rummaging through their home looking for anything they could salvage. A fire destroyed their house Sunday night.
"Obviously, anybody would be distraught. Losing your home, the memories inside. We went inside and saved some of their Christmas gifts," explained Thomas Rullo, Orange County Fire Rescue
The accidental fire started in the fire place.
"We have had so many chimney fires. And once they start they spread into the attic," fire prevention expert Chief Rich Wiederhurd said.
Neighbors watched as crews arrived to battle the flames.
"There was more and more smoke and they started busting out windows," neighbor Jared Kwaterski said.
Oddly, the family never dialed 911. Dispatchers called the house after getting a call from an alarm monitoring company advising that a smoke detector was sounding.
Investigators said the family noticed smoke coming from the fireplace, but didn't think it was serious. They were wrong; flames consumed the home.
"The good part is the fire alarms went off and it got them out of the house safely," Rullo said.
Strong winds made it tough for firefighters to extinguish the flames. They had the emergency under control in about an hour.
No one was hurt during the fire, but the family did lose its pet cat.
"Use your equipment safely. Have it cleaned. Your family is worth the expense," Wiederhurd said.
The house is complete loss. The family will be living with relatives in Leesburg for the time being.
Fireplace Blamed For House Fire In Orlando
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