WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and his family escaped unharmed from a fire that caused major damage to their large, two-story home in Charlotte early on Monday, a fire official said.
The blaze began just before 4 a.m. and took 56 firefighters about an hour to control, Charlotte Fire Department Captain Rob Brisley said. He said fire officials had determined that a fireplace caused the accidental blaze, resulting in about $500,000 in damage to the home.
The family was able to get out of the house on its own with its pets, Brisley said.
Rivera said there were six adults in the home and two dogs.
“We were sleeping and somewhere around 3:30, 3:40 in the morning and (my wife) Stephanie rustled awake and I followed right behind her and we both kind of said at the same time: ‘I think I smell smoke,’” Rivera said during his previously scheduled news conference at Panthers headquarters.
“She turned the lights on and the house was filled with smoke. Then all of a sudden, smoke detectors started to go off.”
Rivera said all the occupants of the home met out front and “by the time we got out, the fire department was arriving and they went right into action.”
“The house sustained some damage but probably the greatest thing was that they saved a lot of our personal mementos, everything from our wedding album to wedding pictures and family photos,” Rivera said. “Those are the kinds of things you can’t replace.”
The Panthers on Saturday clinched their first postseason victory since the 2005 season, beating the Arizona Cardinals 27-16 in a National Football Conference wild-card game.
The win was due in part to a strong performance from quarterback Cam Newton, who suffered minor back fractures in a car accident in December.. The Panthers’ next playoff game is in Seattle on Saturday against the Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions.
Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Additional reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Cooney