By Christina Hager, WBZ-TVBy Christina Hager

PEABODY (CBS) – A Peabody couple thanks an alert neighbor for preventing a holiday tragedy. Robert and Anne Croce lost their home, but no one was injured. They had 15 friends and relatives over for Thanksgiving dinner. After the meal, they gathered by the fireplace. “We only light it two times a year, because I have Thanksgiving and Christmas here,” said Robert Croce.

Chimney fire at Peabody home. (WBZ-TV photo)

Chimney fire at Peabody home. (WBZ-TV photo)

About a half-hour after their guests left, a neighbor spotted flames shooting from the roof. “I just ran across the street to bang on the door, pound on the door, until I got them out,” said Paul Pickard.

Peabody Fire Inspector Joseph DiFranco said the mortar in their old chimney had deteriorated, widening a gap that allowed heat to creep into the walls. He says it was likely smoldering for hours right over the spot where the guests were gathered. “Literally, these people are very, very lucky. That fire was in the walls, above them, and all around them. They didn’t know.” He’s reminding homeowners to have their chimneys inspected regularly.

“Had I gone to sleep and no one saw it, God knows what would have happened. Thank God,” said Croce, who can’t stop thanking his neighbor. “It’s nothing anybody else in this neighborhood or any other neighbor wouldn’t have done,” says Pickard.



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