By CBSBoston.com Staff

LEXINGTON (CBS) — A Lexington family escaped a fire in their home safely early Friday morning, in part thanks to police officers who saw what was happening and banged on their door.

Flames broke out at the house on Maple Street around 4 a.m. Police said a neighbor called 911 and while firefighters were on their way, two Lexington police officers made it to the scene first. They confirmed the house was on fire, woke up the family, and helped the residents and pets get out.

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Investigators said the fire was caused by the improper disposal of oily rags in a dumpster outside of the home.

Lexington Fire Derek Chief Sencabaugh said, “Many people are not aware that oil soaked rags can generate their own heat and start a fire, especially when mixed with other items that can easily ignite. It is important to lay them flat to dry, preferably outdoors, then dispose of them properly.”

Crews faced “brutally cold conditions” while knocking the flames down, the fire department said. Frozen fire hydrants and freezing hoses made it even more difficult.

At least half a dozen firefighters suffered minor injuries, many from slips and falls. All are expected to be OK.

“I’m sure as the guys start to thaw out, there will be more pains and strains but lucky there was nothing serious. This could have been, obviously with the hour and the temperatures, this could have been tragic,” said Sencabaugh.

The two police officers were taken to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation.

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Several surrounding towns assisted Lexington firefighters.

CBSBoston.com Staff