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Blaze ruins top half of house, no injuries reported

“We can replace wood, we can’t replace family,” Sandy Haar said Thursday afternoon, standing outside her half-gutted and smoldering home at 1208 Paseo Verde Drive.

Haar drove back to Merced from her job as a nurse practitioner at a clinic in Chowchilla after family members called her to tell her the house was on fire.

“God’s in control. My family is not harmed,” she said. “You can get new clothes.”

The blaze started before noon Thursday and burned through the top part of the house’s wood shake roof and attic. No injuries were reported and all four dogs on the property were recovered, officials said.

The cause of the fire was because of a wood burning stove that was located on the second floor, according to Battalion Chief Shawn Henry of the Merced Fire Department mid-Thursday afternoon.

“Some embers came out onto the shake roof,” he said.

There were no damage estimates to the house yet from fire officials.

The second floor of the house had signs of fire and water damage, according to Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin.

Fire officials said the fire started in the attic, but the cause hasn’t yet been determined. “The investigation is under way,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a tragedy especially during the holidays.”

The fire carried itself across the roof, and 22 total firefighters, including three battalion chiefs, battled the flames for about an hour. Five Merced city fire engines and one Merced County fire engine responded to the scene.

Melissa Haar was in the house on the second floor and said she got out of the shower, went into the other bathroom on the second floor, and saw the smoke through the skylight.

Her sister Katie was sitting downstairs watching television. “I smelled smoke and told her [Katie] to call dad and the fire department,” said Melissa, who was visiting her family from Chicago. She grabbed her iPad and purse before running out the door.

Melissa sat on the sidewalk in front of the house as Joseph Cabrera, a neighbor from two houses down the street, gave her blankets to stay warm.

Melissa speculated, along with her sister Sara Price, who lives down the street, that a pellet wood stove installed last year might be the culprit behind the fire.

Reporter Ameera Butt can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or abutt@mercedsun-star.com.

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