Updated Aug. 7, 12:15 p.m.
After a four-year campaign of stripping and repainting the trim and windows on his home, Ed Mantel finished the job on Aug. 2. He had used a heat gun to strip the paint off “the last little piece” of wood fascia on the front left corner of the house near the roof line.
And it was about 3:45 p.m. – about an hour after finishing the job – when Mantel began watering some plants and noted that it smelled like a neighbor was firing up a grill for dinner.
But it wasn’t a grill; it was his house.
“I looked up and there were flames coming out of the attic fan,” said Mantel. “It’s pretty scary watching your house burn.”
Mantel had been using the heat gun to tackle problem spots during his refinishing project and never had a problem before. But somehow something ignited Thursday and the resulting fire damaged the roof, attic and second-floor bathroom of the two-story brick home at 340 Selborne Road in Riverside.
“I had been working on the house for three [previous] years without a problem,” Mantel said. “But I’m sure I had something to do with it.”
By Monday, Aug. 6, power and gas service had been restored to the house as the Mantels began the restoration effort.
“Things are moving along quickly,” said Mantel. “We should have estimates in another week or two.”
Mantel credited firefighters with limiting the damage the fire caused. For example, while one crew battled the flames in the attic, another grouped furniture together and covered the pieces with tarps to protect them.
“The guys were there protecting everything,” Mantel said. “They did a great job.”
Flames burned completely through the front left corner of the roof, but damage was contained mainly to the roof and attic area of the two-story brick home.
Several 911 callers reported heavy smoke coming from the roof of the two-story brick home about 3:50 p.m. Firefighters from Riverside and five other suburban departments, including Brookfield, North Riverside, Forest View, McCook and Lyons, responded to the scene, along with investigators from other suburban departments.
According to Riverside Fire Chief Spencer Kimura, Mantel and two others at home when the fire ignited were apparently unaware of the threat because the smoke was contained to the unfinished attic where there were no smoke alarms. Mantel also noted that the attic fan was on at the time, blowing smoke out of the building.
Smoke alarms, which were working properly elsewhere in the home, did not sound, Kimura said. The first call to the 911 center came from someone outside the home.
All of the occupants evacuated the home without injury. Kimura said the fire was contained to the property and that no other structures were affected by the blaze.
The roof, attic and a second-floor bathroom sustained heavy damage from the fire and other areas of the house suffered significant smoke and water damage, said Kimura, who estimated that the fire did about $100,000 in damage.
Fortunately, said Kimura, there were several firefighters present in Riverside at the time of the call. The department typically has minimum daytime staffing, but several additional firefighters were in the village after responding to an earlier call in Forest Park.
“What saved the house was our ability to get a truck there and get a hole in the roof,” said Kimura. “It gave us time to get an attack line into the interior space, get water on the fire and relieve the heat.
“If the heat stays trapped, it weakens the roof members. Then you have to pull companies from the scene and it becomes a total loss.”
Fire crews shut down Selborne Road from Nuttall Road to Uvedale Road for more than three hours as firefighters fought the blaze and made sure no other hot spots remained.