Fire guts house

Linda Trest

A neighbor reported a fire in an unoccupied house in the 400 block of Main Street at 9:48 p.m. Sunday. 

Four minutes later, the first truck from the Gerald-Rosebud Fire Department arrived on the scene. Heavy fire was showing from the south window on the upper story when crews began fighting the fire. The living area on the main floor was also showing heavy fire. 

Deputy Chief Warren Weiss was the incident commander. He noted that his crew did a great job of containing the fire while also battling major water issues. 

A fire hydrant across the street from the home did not work that night, although it worked fine the next day. A second hydrant, a block away, was used instead, but Weiss termed that hydrant’s output as marginal. 

Two additional tankers were called in for more water. Crews from Beaufort-Leslie, New Haven-Berger and Owensville provided assistance to the local department. 

The crews were able to stop the fire from spreading any further than it was when they arrived. A two-car garage on neighboring property was not damaged by the fire that raged just 15 feet away.

Weiss says the fire is not deemed suspicious, but is being investigated by the Franklin County Fire Investigator and an investigator from the owners’ insurance company. 

Two possible causes of the fire might be rags used to varnish woodwork and a faulty space heater.

The owners of the property had been doing renovations on the house in preparation for future rentals. They had been varnishing woodwork in the home’s upper story earlier that evening. Before leaving the house, they placed the rags they were using with the varnish into a plastic bag. They then placed a space heater upstairs to help the varnish dry.

As the owners have learned, placing rags used with any flammable substance in a closed bag is a serious fire hazard. 

Ideally, the rags should be placed in a special metal can with a sealed lid. If such a can is not available, submerge the rags in a bucket of water. 

When such rags are bunched together they hold in heat. As the heat builds ignition can occur. 

It is possible the rags had already begun to smolder in the bag while the owners were still at the house. They had barely arrived home, when they were notified of the fire. 

Fire crews cleared the scene at 1:03 a.m. with no injuries.