Colquitt County, GA (WALB) – A Colquitt County man is staying with family after a fire Monday morning reduced his home to little more than the frame.
Firefighters are still investigating, but family members say a fire being used to heat the home was left smoldering in the fire place.
No one was home, but the owners' daughter who lives next door was panicked until she knew her father was okay.
Officials with the American Red Cross in Moultrie say the fire on Highway 111 was the second fire Monday morning. Chapters in Albany and Americus are also worried that frigid temperatures will lead to more house fires as people try to stay warm.
Colquitt County volunteer firefighters continued to douse what was left of Chet Howell's charred home just off Highway 111. Hours earlier, a friend pounded on his daughter Amanda's door to warn her.
"When I got to the back door it was already engulfed in flames," said Amanda Howell.
Panicked her father might still be inside, Amanda started smashing bedroom windows. "I ran around and busted a few windows out because I was trying to get my dad out, I thought he was in there."
No one was inside, Chet Howell had left for work, the family's Yorkie was with friends, and the rooster in the backyard wasn't bothered by firefighters dousing the blaze.
Amanda says her father lit a fire in the fireplace to warm the home last night and it may have been burning when he left for work. Firefighters warn everyone especially with cold temperatures to be cautious about how you warm your home.
"Space heaters more than anything. Fireplaces are another problem people have, and open gas heaters, we really warn people to be very careful with,' said Bay Volunteer Fire Chief Chuck Scarborough.
Amanda Howell calls it the worst feeling in her life, and despite knowing her father's safe, she's still in shock. "It hasn't really set in yet, that everything's gone."
Despite knowing that would likely be the outcome after watching flames reach the tree tops and melt the home's siding.
The American Red Cross offered to help the family, but Amanda told us her father will stay with her family while he decides what to do about a new home.
Firefighters say battling fires in freezing conditions is dangerous because run off water can quickly freeze and create an extra hazard for them.