Coach’s home caught in blaze

Men’s basketball head coach John Becker and his family narrowly escaped their burning house at 110 Caroline St. on the morning of Dec. 27.

The fire, caused by improperly disposed wood ash from the home’s fireplace, ravaged the back porch and interior kitchen walls of Becker’s house, according to a press release from the Burlington Fire Department.

A passing construction worker, Kenny Roberts, was working on a house across the street from the Becker’s home when at 6:30 a.m. he spotted smoke and banged on the door to alert the family members.

Coach Becker, his wife and one daughter were all asleep in the house because their smoke detectors did not go off.

“It was very scary and chaotic and I’m just thankful that my family got out safely,” Becker said.

Becker attributed the construction worker, Kenny Roberts, with saving the day.

On the evening before the fire, ash stored in a paper bag was deposited on the steps of the back porch.

Assistant Fire Marshal Barry Simays said that over the course of the night, smoldering embers initiated the fire because they were in such close contact with another combustible material.

“Wood ash can hold ember up to three days,” he said.

For Simays, the fire brought back memories of an incident in 1998 where two students were killed and another injured when an overturned beanbag chair fell on top of a heating grate and caught fire in their off-campus apartment.

Proper disposal of ashes includes putting them in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, placed away from anything that could be set aflame, he said.

Since the incident, the coach’s family has been staying at a friend’s house while repairs are being made, Becker said.

Becker said he hopes to take his mind off of his chaotic Christmas with UVM basketball victories.