Fireplace Ashes Ignite House in New York

An Amherst, N.Y. home was virtually destroyed by fire late Sunday night, Dec. 9 at the height of the holiday season.

Snyder firefighters were alerted to a house fire at 299 Frankhauser Road at 11:22 p.m. as several callers reported flames coming from the building.

Fire had already torn through the roof of the single-story home when they arrived, forcing crews to attack the blaze from in front while also trying to gain access to the attached garage.

The homeowner told firefighters he was asleep but was awakened by a noise and got up to investigate. He discovered the fire and escaped through the back of the house with his pet dog.

Crews initially directed large streams of water through the front door and breezeway area from outside before making enough headway to safely enter the house.

Most of the structure was heavily charred, and an automobile and motorcycle in the garage were also damaged. One pet cat died in the fire, and a second was unaccounted for by firefighters.

Chief Thomas Merrill said the fire was caused by fireplace ashes discarded Saturday in a plastic garbage can stored in the breezeway.

Total damage was estimated at $120,000. One firefighter was treated at the scene for dizziness but remained on duty.

Snyder was assisted by a Firefighter Assist and Search Team from Getzville.

Merrill cautioned homeowners about proper disposal of fireplace ashes.

"Ashes can remain hot even several days after a fire and should never be placed in paper or a plastic container," he said. "Always put fireplace ashes in a metal container, and put the container outside, away from the structure and any combustibles."