March 14. 2014 7:38PM

Family, pet cats and snake escape Nottingham fire

Union Leader Correspondent

Firefighters battle an early morning blaze at a home in Nottingham. (COURTESY NOTTINGHAM FIRE DEPARTMENT)

NOTTINGHAM – A homeowner and his family escaped a fire that ruined part if not all of the family's new Highland Avenue home, firefighters said.

There were no injuries, but several cats and a pet snake survived and were saved from the residence.

Fire Chief Jaye Vilchock said firefighters were called to 115 Highland Ave. at 5:58 a.m. for a reported structure fire. When they arrived, fire was showing from the top roof of the three-story home.

"There were a lot flames visible," Vilchock said, explaining the home, a four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot home had recently had its smoke alarms checked by the fire department.

"Fortunately, all of the residents exited the building before we got there," he said.

The homeowner, Dan Vitale, his wife, his two daughters, his sister and his sister's boyfriend all escaped the home, Vilchock said, and are being aided by area volunteer groups as a result of the crisis.

Vitale, who had recently bought the home and was in the process of moving in, was awakened by the smoke alarm sounding, Vilchock said. After finding all the occupants out of the home, fire crews initiated an interior attack of the flames, he said.

"Crews encountered zero visibility and heat condition on the fire floor," the third floor of the house, he said. Outside, frigid temperatures made fighting the fire difficult, he said.

Vilchock said he called for a third alarm in order to get additional manpower and to set up a tanker shuttle. The fire was brought under control at 7:56 a.m.

The cause of the fire is not suspicious, he said, as it was likely a third-floor woodstove problem.

Vilchock said he was not sure if the house is a total loss or not. "There was extensive damage to residence, the dollar amount is not known," he said.

Nottingham firefighters and rescue crews were assisted by crews and apparatus from Barnstead, Barrington, Candia, Deerfield, Epping, Exeter, Fremont, Lee, Newmarket, Northwood, and Raymond.