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Chemical reaction starts roof fire

Firefighters pour water on a roof blaze in a Clinton home Saturday night after a years-old chemical process made the home more susceptible to fire. - Matt Johnson
Firefighters pour water on a roof blaze in a Clinton home Saturday night after a years-old chemical process made the home more susceptible to fire.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

A nighttime fire at a Bailey Road home Thursday literally left a Clinton woman without a roof over her head.

According to Darin Reid, Chief of Special Services with Fire District 3, a long-term chemical reaction sparked a fire in the roof a home owned by Sarah Silverman. District volunteers arrived at the blaze shortly after 9 p.m. to find the home's cedar-shake roof engulfed in flame.

It took firefighters about three hours to get the fire under control, by which time it had consumed much of the home's roof. Reid said firefighters working with compressed air foam from inside the house and water outside were key in saving the structure from complete destruction. However, he estimated damage to the house to be approximately $180,000.

The blaze started in an unusual manner, Reid said. The district's preliminary investigation determined that years of fires in the home's fireplace had heated the framing wood around the brick chimney, causing it to convert to a flammable carbon. Prior to Saturday's fire, the home's occupants had been burning wood in the fire place constantly over the course of two days due to a furnace failure. Heat seeping through cracks in old mortar in the chimney likely ignited some of the carbonized wood in the home's attic, Reid said.

"It took years for this to develop," Reid said.

By the time firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire, the entire length of the home's attic was in flames.

No one was in the house at the time of the fire. A dog owned by Silverman survived the fire, after seeking refuge in the home's foundation. The dog was coaxed out of the foundation as firefighters were working to extinguish the flames in the upper portion of the home.

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