PERU – Creosote buildup in a single-brick chimney without a flue caught fire Tuesday night, damaging a two-story home on Route 108, fire Chief Bill Hussey said.

No one was injured in the 6:55 p.m. blaze that began in the chimney of Jason Holman’s house at 1080 Auburn Road.

The home is just south of Worthley Pond Road.

“Most chimneys can handle a chimney fire because they’re double-brick and they have a flue,” Hussey said. “It was a single-brick chimney that had a big crack where it went up through the attic floor and (Jason) didn’t know it was there because of the double floor. The chimney still had creosote in it.”

Creosote is a very flammable byproduct of combustion that can build up in stove pipes and chimneys and ignite.

“Once it gets hot, it’s like a torch. It’s probably what split the chimney,” Hussey said.

Holman, who is staying with his parents in Dixfield, returned home after having dinner at a friend’s house and noticed the fire. Rather than enter after seeing smoke escaping from the eaves, Holman stayed inside his car and called 911, Hussey said.

“When we arrived, we could see through a window, fire coming out right where the chimney was. There was heavy smoke and a little bit of fire inside. One window had melted upstairs, so we knew it was hot. We were nervous, because we had two guys going in, but they went up the stairway right to it and hit it quick,” he said.

He estimated damage of at least $50,000 to the home with attached ell. The second-floor ceiling and the roof of the house were badly charred. The upper floor also sustained a lot of water and heat damage, although Hussey said less than 2,000 gallons of water was used due to a quick knockdown and suppressant foam.

The Peru chief credited Dixfield firefighters for their rapid mutual-aid response.

“We were fortunate they were having a meeting at the time, and they were the first ones there,” Hussey said of the 30 to 35 firefighters.

Canton, Mexico and Rumford firefighters also responded, along with Med-Care Ambulance and the Dixfield Ladies Auxiliary, who brought refreshments for the 30 to 35 firefighters who stayed until 10:30 p.m. One remained behind until 2 a.m. Wednesday to ensure there were no rekindles.

The United Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross in Lewiston was also helping out late Wednesday afternoon, providing clothing and food, according to Holman’s mother, Paula Holman. She said her son bought the house, which was insured, last winter.

With many homeowners switching to wood due to high heating oil prices, Hussey said he believes River Valley area firefighters will see a lot more chimney fires this season unless people get chimneys inspected and cleaned or repaired.

“Dixfield had one, we had this one, and Mexico had one or two. I’m afraid people are burning more wood now. It’s going to be a rough winter,” he added.


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