“Pine-Strawberry Fire Department firefighters responded to a house fire on Dan’s Highway in Strawberry at 11:45 p.m. on Christmas Day,” said PSFD Chief John Wisner.

Owner Joseph Hill and his girlfriend, Lainie Stanco had only been home a little over an hour when Hill thought the fire he built in the wood stove just didn’t sound right.

“I heard more popping than usual, the fire had changed its tone,” he said.

While he checked out the fireplace, Stanco ran outside and could see flames from the first floor roof heading up the second story addition in the back. She ran inside yelling for Hill to come outside as well.

911 was called and on arrival PSFD units found flames coming from the front of the home and the roof on both the first and second floors.

“PSFD units quickly stopped the spread of the fire and were able to put most of it out except that which had gotten into the attic spaces and walls. Payson Fire Department sent an engine and a battalion chief to assist. Hellsgate and Water Wheel fire departments sent water tenders,” said Wisner.

“Origin of the fire was very clearly the chimney,” said PSFD Fire Marshal Rick Barnes.

“Everything is consistent with that being the area of origin.”

Hill purchased the home in April of 2019 and it was a project he was passionate about. He had started transitioning to become a full-time resident as much of the house was almost complete, he said.

As he surveyed the damage left by flames, water and smoke, his remodeling efforts are all but gone now. Over $100,000 in new appliances, flooring and creative design are now hidden by black soot and soggy insulation. He was bummed but not defeated.

“I will rebuild, but not for a few months,” he said.

If you own a wood burning stove, your chimney needs to be cleaned and inspected at least once a year, said Barnes. More often, depending on the type of wood you are burning. Also inspect them any time there is a modification to the home, he added.

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