HOUSTON, TX (KTRK) -- A north Harris County family started the year homeless as a gas heater sparked a fire that gutted their house.
The fire happened late New Year's Eve at the home on Cheswick near W. Nellis just east of the North Freeway.
Eyewitness News spent some time with Juan Rodriguez. He and his family called the house home for 10 years. It was hard for him to take another look.
"Everything's gone," Rodriguez said.
Personal belongings, furniture and clothes were all destroyed as the fire took off.
"My neighbor called me. He said the house was on fire so I came this way," said Rodriguez's 18-year-old son, Juan Rodriguez, Jr.
The family of five wasn't home as flames shot out of the roof. Dozens of firefighters from multiple departments raced to put it out, and in the end, the apparent cause might have been preventable.
"It was an accident, can't do nothing about it," the younger Rodriguez added.
Fire officials believe the gas heater malfunctioned, sparking the inferno. It was the fourth house fire the Little York Fire Department responded to as people rang in the New Year.
That's probably 3 to 4 times what normal would be," said Deputy Chief Sean Richardson.
Because of the fire at the Rodriguez home, Richardson has advice about heating systems. He said, "Have them serviced yearly. Get a certified technician out to look at it. Check the connections, the electrical conductors. Check the gas fittings to make sure there's no leaks or faulty equipment."
Richardson says the biggest problem is that heating systems go un-inspected for so long that people don't know there's something wrong until it's too late.