TURNER – Firefighters credit smoke detectors with saving the lives of a mother and her two sons Christmas night when a pipe venting a wood stove overheated and started a fire in the family home.

Fire Chief Michael Arsenault said damage to the single-story home on Harlow Hill Road owned by Patrick and Debbie Heuveline was limited to the kitchen and dining area.

Debbie reported the fire around 11:15 p.m., alerted to the blaze by smoke detectors in the house. When firefighters arrived, Arsenault said the detectors were still screeching.

“This is not something you want on Christmas Day,” Arsenault said, but the smoke detectors gave the family enough time to wake up and get out safely.

Patrick Heuveline said his wife and two sons, 13 and 20 years old, returned home from celebrations Christmas night while Heuveline stayed behind with his daughter and other relatives. Debbie Heuveline and her sons loaded the wood stove as the night’s last order of business.

“They were all getting ready to go to bed,” Heuveline said. “That’s when the house started filling with smoke.”

The family escaped the burning home as flames spread from the wood stove to the walls and ceiling. Firefighters saved most of the house, but damage to the dining area from fire, water and smoke was extensive.

The fire was ignited by an overheated stovepipe connected to one of two wood stoves in the home, where the pipe connects to the outside through the kitchen ceiling, Arsenault said. He said it appeared the pipe had been properly installed, but when fire ignites in the stovepipe it gets hot fast and can superheat ceilings and walls.

The Heuveline family was expecting to stay in hotels or possibly a rented house while the damage to their home was being repaired. For Patrick Heuveline, it was important to keep things in perspective.

“I was thinking about how aggravating it all was,” he said. “But my kids got, out and my wife got out. That’s really what’s important. I’ll take the aggravation and the inconvenience.”

Arsenault said his department has braced itself for a busy winter of wood stove fires as people try to use alternative energy sources to keep heating oil costs down. In order to get the most heat from the stove, Arsenault said people tend to tamp down the fire in these stoves, which quickly builds creosote in chimneys and pipes and increases the chance of fire.

Although braced for lots of fire calls, Arsenault said they haven’t seen anything out of the ordinary yet. They’ve responded to a couple of chimney fires, but this is the first one “that got away from the chimney. We’ve been lucky,” he said.