GERRY, N.Y. (WIVB) - Four people are recovering from a raging fire in the southern tier that is believed to have been started from a pellet stove.
Four people escaped with their lives, but had to be hospitalized, following a house fire in the Chautauqua County Town of Gerry.
Gerry Fire Chief Carl Fransen said, "I was about three miles away; I could see heavy black smoke over all the trees. I knew we had a good fire going."
The victims' grandfather, John Venable, said, "It was just a big ball [of fire] coming out right next to the stairway there, about in the area where that stove is."
Venable is talking about the pellet stove that two sons and grandson used to heat their home. The flames shooting out of the house were so intense, he says, he could not get in to rescue his family.
"[The] bedrooms are all toward the back side, and there's just a narrow hallway to get by. The stove's within three, four feet of the hallway. So you couldn't get through there at all," he said.
Venable's grandson had to jump out of his bedroom window. Not knowing he'd made it out, the boy's father raced back in to find him.
Venable said, "That's when he got burned pretty good."
"Guys did a pretty quick stop on the initial part of the fire. We had about an hour-and-a-half of overhaul. We had a large pond right here in the yard of the house, which helped extensively with water," said Chief Fransen.
The pellet stove hadn't been cleaned out, according to investigators. They believe the stove overheated, igniting the ash built up inside.
Chautauqua County Fire Investigator Scott Cummings said, "You have to maintain them, clean them. Just like a wood stove, same thing. That would really help. And the other thing is smoke detectors. Unfortunately, in this residence, the smoke detectors did not work."
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