HOUSTON (KTRK) -- A Houston family is safe, but without their home after a fire in their fireplace spread to the rest of the house.
The family had just stepped out of their home on Mohawk Street at Lucerne Street, but left the fire unattended. Now firefighters are hoping their story can spare others the same heartbreak.
Ray Jones lives in the home with his grandchildren and children, but wasn't home when the fire started. The kids were in the back of the house.
"We just looked and saw the house on fire," said fire victim Tiffany Seamster. "We had no idea it was that bad though."
It started in the fireplace. That's supposed to be a safe place for a fire, but when Jones left and no one around to keep an eye on it, somehow the fire spread.
"I would definitely make sure there's no fire in the fireplace burning when we leave again," he said. "I almost don't even want to light the fireplace, looking at the damage that it did."
National stats show 14,000 house fires will start in the fireplace this year. Many times, it's an old chimney that's the problem.
"If it gets in the attic, it's going to take control of the home," said Captain Ray Lozano with the Houston Dire Department.
So what can you do to make sure this doesn't happen?
"Don't overload your chimney," said Lozano. "Try not to use true wood. Try to use a small burn log that log will not produce the kind of heat that will cause destruction. But also, you have to just stay aware. Make sure the flue is open to your chimney, but more than anything else, if you hear a significant crack or popping sound, that significant that something is expanding within the chimney system."
Fire officials also want need to get your chimneys cleaned regularly. They also want to remind people that as temperatures drop, make sure you're using those correctly.
The National Fire Protection Association estimates 14,000 house fires will start in fireplaces this year. Some of the causes include overloading the fireplace, damage to the fireplace such as missing bricks, obstructed flutes, ignition of nearby combustibles, and flying sparks.
There are several safety tips the Commission recommends for staying safe as temperatures continue to drop, and more and more people start using their fireplaces.
For a list of those tips, click or tap here.
12 people, including 8 children, flee burning home in NE Houston