When the Smith family settled into their Heidi Trail home for a quiet chilly evening Sunday, they never expected that just a few short hours later they would be watching their family home being engulfed by flames.
According to Morgan County Fire and Rescue (MCFR), when one of the parents attempted to use the gas fire place, some kind of malfunction occurred causing a sudden explosion, blowing out the back of the house and catching the rest on fire. The explosion had enough force to blow the mounted television above the fireplace off the wall, which struck both parents, causing minor injuries.
The Smiths were able to escape unharmed with their four children, but their beloved cat was killed in the fire and the family lost most of their belongings, including the children’s recent Christmas presents.
MCFR arrived at the scene and extinguished the flames, but the damage had already been done.
“The fire had consumed about 80 percent of the house, which is considered a total loss,” said Fire Chief Jeff Stone.
While fire units put out the fire and called it a night, just an hour later they were called back out when the fire reignited again, consuming what was left of the house.
“The reignited fire caused the roof to collapse, making it even more difficult to put out,” said Stone, who noted firefighters struggled in freezing weather to extinguish the second fire throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning.
According to Stone, the fire reigniting like that is unusual and is currently being investigated. “There is a lot of concern because of the amount of fire we had the second time,” said Stone.
A GoFundMe page has been started for the Smith family. As of press time on Tuesday, Jan. 16, $7,225 has been raised to help the Smith family get through this tragic loss.
“The Smiths’ family home caught fire from a fireplace explosion and is a total loss. They have four beautiful children and they all need your help. Please help this sweet family get by with anything you can spare during such a difficult time,” wrote Abby Luke, a family friend who organized the fundraiser.
To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/508jle0. The site also includes the family’s clothing and shoe sizes. The Morgan County Citizen is collecting clothing donations for the family. You can drop off donations at 259 North Second Street in Madison.
Unfortunately, the Smith family is not the only one in Morgan County who has experienced a dangerous house fire in recent months. Another fire broke out early Monday morning in Apalachee that also began in a chimney. Several other fires broke out in recent weeks with fire officials identifying the severe cold as a contributing factor to the recent spike in fire outbreaks.
“We are seeing a lot of these fires recently,” said Stone, who noted this year’s winter is dramatically colder than previous years in Georgia.
“More people are using alternative heating sources trying to keep warm and unfortunately, that increases the risk of a fire outbreak,” said Stone.
Stone urges citizens to have their chimneys cleaned at least once a year by a professional cleaning company.
“People try to use the cleaning logs, but those are not sufficient,” said Stone. “I’d prefer people not use space heaters at all, but if you do, make sure to keep it away from walls, furniture, clothes, fabrics, and never leave it unattended.”
“We want everyone to be extra safe out there to do what they can to help prevent fires from happening in their homes,” said Stone.