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Structural leaks result in house fire

A blaze in a fireplace got out of control, damaging this residence at 808 Cotton Ave., Albany.

A blaze in a fireplace got out of control, damaging this residence at 808 Cotton Ave., Albany.

ALBANY -- Three Albanians trying to stay warm by a fire got instead a nasty surprise.

The Albany Fire Department was called to 808 Cotton Ave. Monday afternoon after a fireplace blaze burned out of control.

The AFD was called to the scene just after 1 p.m. Battalion Chief C.E. Haynes said the fire spread from the house's fireplace to the attic. At the time, the fireplace had not been used in decades.

"The fireplace hadn't been used in 40 years, and the people (in the house) decided to build a fire," Haynes said.

Haynes added it is likely there were structural leaks in the fireplace. The leaks allowed the blaze to spread through the frame of the home. Some insulation also managed to catch fire.

The fire was mainly contained to the attic and fireplace. The AFD was still at the scene roughly 90 minutes after the initial call, tearing out the attic to check for hidden fire.

"We've got it under control," Haynes said at the scene.

The fire was estimated to have caused $18,000-$20,000 in property damage. All the occupants made it out safely.

Haynes said a lesson could be learned from this incident.

"If you are going to make a fire in a fireplace that hasn't been used in a while, you need to have the fireplace inspected," he said. "I wouldn't try to use it after 40 years without it being inspected."

The incident came about as Southwest Georgia is experiencing a bout of wintry weather. At the time of the Cotton Avenue fire, the Albany area was experiencing wet conditions with temperatures in the 30s.

For the remainder of the week, high temperatures in the area are expected to stay in the 40s with lows in the 20s.

On a related note, officials with the Southwest Public Health District have issued tips on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to educate residents on carbon monoxide poisoning -- which kills more than 500 people in the United States each year.

Those tips include never using a gas range or oven to heat a home and never using charcoal grills, hibachis, lanterns or portable camping stoves inside a home. Experts recommend having at least one working carbon monoxide detector in a home, with the batteries in those detectors being checked twice annually.