By Shelley Grieshop
Officials say a fire that caused extensive damage to a rural Celina home June 1 began near an area of the garage where car parts were left soaking in gasoline.
Dennis Cummings, a fire investigator for the State Fire Marshals office, said the Howick Road fire definitely started in the west half of the family's attached two-vehicle garage, but what ignited the blaze remains a mystery.
"We've not confirmed what started the fire, but gasoline is obviously easy to ignite," Cummings added.
No injuries were reported by any of the three fire departments that battled the blaze, and no one was home at the time it broke out that morning. The home and property at 6620 Howick Road is owned by Quint and Audrey Miesse who resided there with their four children.
A damage estimate has not been set. Cummings said he and insurance company representatives are waiting for contractors to give estimates. "It will be extensive," he said of the likely dollar amount loss.
The family told The Daily Standard the home was insured.
The garage and two cars parked inside were reduced to charred remnants. The upstairs attic was in flames from east to west when firefighters arrived at the sprawling 8-year-old home. A portion of the second floor sustained heavy damage and minor water and smoke damage was reported to the first floor.
However, Cummings said it could have been much worse.
"The firefighters did an excellent job. They used the right tactics to prevent further damage," he said.
Firefighters, who were at the scene for more than eight hours, entered the home and fought the fire from within, keeping the flames from spreading further. Instead of just working from the outside only, they also sprayed the water from the inside out, Cummings explained.
Cummings said he and other investigators are looking into the possibility that a work light may have been left on in the garage and could have ignited the fire.
"Gasoline ignition temperature is approximately -45 degrees Fahrenheit, so unless you have something colder than that, it can be ignited by about anything," Cummings explained.
Cummings said gasoline should never be left uncovered or used to clean tools or other items.
"Gasoline is not meant to be a cleaner. It works, but there are plenty of commercial cleaners available that are much safer to use," he said.
The fire was called in to 911 by a passer-by. The Miesse couple were on their way to Lima when they got the news before 10 a.m. The family is reportedly staying with relatives.
Three cats, a dog and a turtle were rescued from the home.