Litchfield News

Chimney fire led to blaze that destroyed Morris house (03-17-13)

A house at 5 East Shore Road in Morris was consumed by a fire on Friday night. BZ photos

A chimney fire produced sparks and embers that led to a fire that destroyed a house at 5 East Shore Road in Morris on Friday night.
Morris Fire Marshal David Hardt determined the cause Saturday following an investigation. Hardt said a buildup of creosote, a sticky byproduct in the smoke of burning wood, ignited inside the chimney and led to the larger fire.
Embers and sparks from the chimney fire landed on the roof of the house and ignited asphalt shingles, according to Hardt.
The house was being rented by Rick Neller, a well-known local resident. Neller lived in the home with his son, Colin, and daughter, Brooke. Most of their possessions in the one-story ranch house were destroyed. Rick Neller does not have renters insurance to cover the cost of lost personal possessions and plans are being made locally to hold fundraisers for the family. Cash collection jars have set up at the Morris recycling center and trash transfer station and at businesses in town.
No one was home when the fire broke out. 911 calls were received just before 10 p.m. when neighbors saw flames shooting out of the chimney and an orange glow inside the house. But the time firefighters arrived, flames were beginning to devour the roof and there was no hope of stopping the fire.
The chimney fire was caused by creosote that had accumulated from fires inside a woodstove insert being used to heat the house, Hardt said. Rick Neller had filled the woodstove with wood before leaving at 5:30 p.m.
Firefighters from Morris, Bantam, Litchfield and Bethlehem fought the blaze. It took about an hour to get the fire under control and Morris firefighters remained at the scene until 2 a.m.
Rick Neller was renting the house from John Dufour, owner of the All-Star Transportation school bus company that services Litchfield, Region 6 and several other school districts. The house was previously owned by Carol Whittlesey, Morris's former  tax collector.
Neller said he and his children are staying with family or friends. Colin Neller is a student at Naugatuck Valley Community College and Brooke Neller is a freshman at Wamogo Regional High School.