Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the fire was on Princeton Avenue. Firefighters clarified that it was called in on Wilshire Drive.
An Amherst woman and her dog escaped their burning house before sunrise Tuesday, thanks to a good Samaritan.
A person driving by saw flames rising from the roof of a Princeton Avenue home around 6:30 a.m. and knocked on the door, according to Assistant Fire Chief Brandon Dimacchia.
The passerby woke the resident and her pet and made sure they got to safety. “Somebody owes her a hug,” Dimacchia said.
When he arrived at 6:36 a.m., there were five- to eight-foot-tall flames jetting from the roof near the chimney pipe.
The fireplace had been in use the night before, he said.
It’s hard to tell how the blaze sparked, but it’s path was clear, said Dimacchia — the flames roared through the attic above the garage and bedroom.
There was no smoke detector in the attic, and because smoke rises, the ones below didn’t sound any alarm.
Dimacchia said residents should have attic smoke alarms for exactly that reason, though most do not.
Firefighters had the flames knocked down in about 15 minutes. They pulled down the ceilings above the garage and bedroom, and tore apart drywall enclosing the chimney to make sure there were no embers left lurking.
Wiring inside the house was significantly damaged, said Dimacchia, so the meter had to be pulled. That left the all-electric home without heat and power, unfit for winter occupancy.
The residents made arrangements to stay with friends.
Dimacchia estimated damages at $60,000 to the structure and $20,000 to personal belongings.
Vermilion and South Amherst firefighters assisted with the response.