Squirrels spark Chesterfield house fire

Posted at 5:46 PM, Feb 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-18 06:58:07-05

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va (WTVR) - Chesterfield Fire investigators said a squirrels' nest helped ignite a house fire off Newbys Ct. Saturday.

Renita Gray and her son Jaron Walker were inside their home when neighbors banged on their door Saturday morning and told Gray her chimney was on fire.

"They banged on the door before the smoke detector went off," Gray said.

Gray and Walker both rushed out in their pajamas and watched as flames consumed the side of the house.

"It was like a furnace, except outside and everywhere.  There was nothing containing it," Walker, a Manchester Middle School student, said.

Fire investigators said the fire started because a squirrels nest inside the pre-fab chimney caught on fire.

The squirrels apparently got underneath the chimney and chewed a hole in its base. They then built their nest up against the metal fireplace box that sat inside the wooden chimney shaft.  When the nest caught on fire, so did the chimney and then the side of the house.

"It probably happens more than we know about it. It's probably going on right now somewhere," Chesterfield Fire Battalion Chief Mark Nugent said.

Nugent said it is a good idea to check your chimney once a month to make sure nothing flammable is close to it.

The family used the chimney to help heat the home since their furnace was inconsistent.

Gray said just a week ago she asked her landlord to look at their chimney because it was acting funny.  Gray and her family have rented the home for about eight months.

The fire burned so intensely that a pair of plastic windows in the slanted roof near the chimney both melted into twisted, mangled slabs.

Gray said the fire destroyed most of their belonging. The family will spend the night in a motel room paid for by their insurance company.  The Red Cross has also come to their aid.