Fire does heavy damage to Briar Crest home
Benny Guerra Sr. was not home when the fire broke out around 7 p.m. in the three-car garage attached to the house at 3506 Briar Crest Drive.
“The call came in from a neighbor across the street,” said Tim Ehlers, shift commander at the Janesville Fire Department.
“They said they heard a mild explosion, looked outside and saw a garage on fire,” Ehlers said.
When firefighters arrived, the garage was engulfed in flames, and the fire was spreading into the house attic.
“It almost burned the garage off the building,” Ehlers said.
“We’re looking at almost a complete loss of house and contents,’’ he said.
Fire Lt. Jody Stowers estimated damage at $171,000 for the house and another $100,000 for contents, Ehlers said.
The cause of the fire remains unknown, Ehlers said.
“We know the point of origin was in the garage, but we’re not sure of the heat source,’’ he said.
Guerra’s son, Benny Guerra Jr., was the only person home at the time of the fire.
“He was in the basement watching TV with his dog. When he heard something, he thought his dad and girlfriend had come home. But when he went upstairs, he could see an orange glow from a window and knew enough to get out of the house. About that time the neighbor also had called,” Ehlers said.
Once the fire spread into the attic, it burned above the living quarters, Ehlers said.
“The rest of the living quarters suffered intense heat, smoke and extensive water damage,” he said.
The fire also threatened the house next door, so firefighters doused it with water to keep it from catching on fire, Ehlers said
“A few more minutes and that house would have sustained some damage to it,” Ehlers said.
Snow, cold and wind made fighting the fire more difficult.
“Our guys are moving so they get all sweated up and then cold. It decreases the amount of work they can do and it takes a lot more energy just to stay warm,” Ehlers said.
A fire hydrant froze up while firefighters were battling the blaze, but “we flowed enough water through it until it thawed out,” he said.
One firefighter suffered cuts to an arm, Stowers said.
Janesville police and Alliant Energy helped at the scene.
For now, Guerra Sr. and his son will stay with his girlfriend, Ranee Wagner of Whitewater, Ehlers said.