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Fire ravages SK home

A pet bird was the ultimate casualty of a late-morning fire that gutted an exterior wall of a century-old house on Pottery Avenue Sunday.

Fire crews were called out just before 10:30 a.m. to a two-story home in the 1200 block of Pottery. The fire, which apparently started in a bucket of improperly stored ashes, had gotten into the walls of the house and quickly spread. Although most modern homes are built with fire-retardant measures such as horizontal two-by-fours at intervals between the wall joists, the 100-plus-year-old house was done with balloon construction and lacked those elements.

This meant there was nothing preventing the flames from quickly reaching the upper stories, and eventually, the attic.

“That was how they used to build them,” said Fire District 7 spokeswoman Lisa Kirkemo. “With an old house like that, there’s a lot of fuel, so it burns pretty quickly.”

The firefighters managed to bring the blaze under control and finally extinguish it, but not before 30 percent of the house had been severely damaged by heat and flames. The rest sustained substantial smoke damage as well and was judged uninhabitable. Kirkemo said she didn’t know whether the woman who lived alone in the house would be able to repair the damage and eventually move back in.

Luckily, the woman — who was home when the fire started — escaped unharmed. Her pet bird however, succumbed to the heat and smoke.

No damage cost estimates were available Monday.

Kirkemo said the district would like to remind residents to be very careful of fireplace and wood stove ashes. All ashes, regardless of how old they are, should be stored in metal containers away from combustibles — ashes can retain heat for hours or even days after the fire is extinguished. Kirkemo pointed to the Pottery fire as an example of how much damage a single bucket of ashes can wreak if not handled safely.

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