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Family can't save pet in rural house fire

Home damaged

Staff writer

A house fire caused extensive damage to a rural Hillsboro residence and claimed the life of a family pet Friday.

Firefighters had to restrain homeowners who attempted to rescue their beloved pet, said Hillsboro Fire Chief Ben Steketee who was first on the scene.

“Unfortunately they lost a cat in the fire,” Steketee said. “It was really sad. The cat was special to the family.

“I am sure it was frustrating to them because everything looked pretty good through the front door on the ground floor, but I couldn’t let them go inside to search for their cat because of the potential danger involved. We are responsible for the safety of everyone on scene.”

Many of the homeowners’ family and friends came to stand with them at the scene, he said.

Before that, emergency crews responded at 4:46 p.m. to a report of smoke coming from the roof a house at 2252 Limestone Rd., near Marion Reservoir.

Homeowners Doug and Jeanne Penner were not there initially. However, a crew of roofers, who had been working, was present. Steketee said someone from the crew made the call for help.

Heavy smoke was coming from both attic vents, and Steketee observed flames that appeared to be coming from the attic.

Hillsboro ambulance as well as Marion and Tampa fire crews were on scene soon thereafter.

“We had a little trouble securing the scene,” Steketee said. “The roofers were trying to move stuff out of the way. They were concerned about the property.”

Steketee “corralled” the roofers away from the fire, and fire crews kept them at a safe distance.

Scanner transmissions indicated that firefighters entered the building in breathing apparatuses.

The fire breached the roof, Steketee said, and firefighters discovered that an “interior attack” wasn’t as effective as originally planned, so they withdrew and battled the fire from outside.

Flames spread down to the second floor through a whole house fan opening, Steketee said. Firefighters were able to stop the fire before it reached the first floor, but Steketee said the first floor suffered smoke damage.

Crews had to open up some interior walls to check to see whether studs were catching fire, he said.

“The house was a balloon-style construction, which is something that gets our attention as firefighters,” Steketee said, “The 2x4’s in a that style of house run all the way from the basement to the attic, so a fire could really be anywhere inside. It travels in the walls.”

Eventually, the fire was extinguished with 5,000 gallons of water and 30 gallons of foam.

“The house wasn’t totaled, but it’s not habitable,” Steketee said Friday. “Fire Marshall Chris Mercer said the official cause of the fire was undermined, but before he left the scene he was leaning toward its cause being accidental.”

Crews were called back to the scene at 11:41 p.m. Steketee said smoldering bookers were discovered and removed, while a thermal imagining camera was used to confirm that there were no other hotspots.

Last modified Nov. 24, 2015

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