Firefighters are using portable ponds to fuel the water pumps at the scene. The yellow pond holds 2,100 gallons and the red one holds 3,000 gallons.

CAROLINE, N.Y. — A major Caroline house fire, which kept some fire companies at the scene for about eight hours Tuesday, was likely caused by wood stove pellets that caught fire because they were too close to a heater, according to a preliminary investigation.

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The fire sparked up just after 9 a.m. yesterday at 2859 Slaterville Road, and caused 30 – 35 firefighters from at least eight departments to be at the scene battling the blaze for hours.

The home was being rented by two people, multiple dogs and a cat, all of whom escaped without injury.

Beth Harrington, president of the Slaterville Fire Department, said firefighters from Slaterville, Varna and Brooktondale stayed at the scene until investigators completed work at the home around 5 p.m.

The firefighters, she said, assisted with the investigation and were on hand in case any hot spots were discovered — there were no hot spots found.

Harrington said investigators’ preliminary investigation showed that a pallet of pellets for a wood stove was on the porch by an automatic heater.

“The pallet was too close to it, so the pellets caught on fire,” she said, clarifying that the information is part of a preliminary investigation by Montour Falls fire investigators.

Harrington, who also works a the Tompkins County Department of Emergency Response, said fires from heating systems usually start up as the weather drops, like it has recently in the county.

Improper fuel storage for heating devices and heating devices, such as chimneys, furnaces and wood stoves, that are not properly maintained all contribute to the cause of fires during the winter months, she said.

“Anytime there’s cold weather that makes heating more needed, any of those factors can contribute,” Harrington said.

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Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.