BETHEL — A West Bethel woman escaped injury late Friday morning when fire erupted on the first floor of her three-story apartment on a dirt road off Flat Road, Bethel fire Chief Mike Jodrey said.
A state fire investigator ruled the fire accidental on Friday afternoon, attributing the cause to combustibles left near but not atop a portable heater that was left on too long.
Patricia Tribble was upstairs using her computer at 24 Mozee’s Way shortly before 11 a.m. when Jodrey said she noticed smoke rolling up the stairway from the first floor. Her four children were away at school.
Tribble called 911 and got out, but then ran back inside into heavy brown smoke to retrieve two family dogs, Jodrey said. She was treated by Bethel Rescue for possible smoke inhalation but wasn’t injured.
“When we got here, heavy, heavy brown smoke was boiling out of the windows and flames were visible, but no fire got up to the second and third floors,” Jodrey said of the single-family building, which is about 6 miles from the fire station.
Bethel firefighters immediately did an interior attack, knocking the fire down in 20 minutes.
“The guys did an awesome job knocking it down,” Jodrey said. Overall, 15 firefighters from the three departments spent about 1½ hours extinguishing the fire and checking for hot spots.
Jodrey said the fire was deemed accidental by fire investigator Dan Young of the State Fire Marshal’s Office in Augusta, whom Jodrey called to the scene early Friday afternoon.
Jodrey said Young attributed the cause to a portable radiator-type electric heater left on and too close to combustibles for too long.
The house is rental property and was insured, Jodrey said. It is owned by Rob Lowrance of Massachusetts.
Jodrey declined to specify a damage estimate, but said that an insurance adjuster was en route late Friday afternoon.
Tribble and her children will be staying at the Bethel Inn for a few nights — courtesy of the Bethel Fire Department’s Emergency Relief Account — until they can get situated, Jodrey said.
Local school district SAD 44 and social services are also expected to help the family, he said.