Montgomery, AL (WSFA) - In the midst of a November cold snap, many people across Alabama turned on the heat for the first time last week.
For homeowners in East Montgomery, that flip of a switch sparked a fire, that left at least one home in shambles in Ridgeview Lane.
Neighbor Sylvia Witte says she felt helpless as she watched as the flames consume the house.
"There was a big cloud that came towards my house, and the wind was blowing and everything. Then I saw the flames, and the house was just going up. It was horrible," she said.
The fire started around noon on Saturday. No one was home at the time, but fire investigators say the homeowners had turned their heat on for the first time before leaving, which sparked the blaze.
Nicole Bradley and Dathan Ellis say the flames from Bell Road. They drove closer to get a better look.
Ellis said, "I thought I saw flames over the Wal-mart. And I said, no, I think that's a house back there."
"I'm surprised that the house is still there. I mean, the whole top is gone, which is crazy, but there just so much smoke, " said Bradley.
Wind sent burning debris flying through the neighborhood, causing some grass fires. Witte and fellow neighbors cleared out of their homes.
"The houses are close together, so anything could have happened," Witte added.
While her home was spared, others nearby were damaged. The siding, chimneys, and roofs melted from the heat. Still, neighbors say they are counting their blessings that this large fire didn't spread.
Witte said, "It's something to think about. You don't ever know what tomorrow brings. The Lord was with us, that's all I can say."
Montgomery Fire Chief William Davis says that it's important to have your heaters inspected by a professional on a regular basis, and when you turn your heat on for the first time, to keep an eye on it for a while.
He also advises folks to keep combustibles away from the heaters and fireplaces, and that screens should be placed in front of fireplaces to make sure burning embers don't pop out.
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