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GOLD HILL — A chimney fire caused the blaze that destroyed a Gold Hill house Wednesday night, and the man who escaped was the only one home when the fire broke out, an official says.
Because of a language barrier, officials initially believed that Victor Ortiz, another adult and three children were in the home when the fire started around 8 p.m., said Deborah Horne, an investigator with the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office.
Horne said she learned later that Victor Ortiz was the only person in the rental house at 13525 U.S. 52. His wife and children were not home, Horne said.
Ortiz had built a fire in a wood stove for heat and was placing more wood in the stove when he noticed smoke coming from what he thought was the kitchen, Horne said. The smoke actually was coming from the wall between the kitchen and living room, where a chimney fire had ignited the wall, she said.
Ortiz declined assistance from the Rowan County chapter of the American Red Cross, which sent a disaster team to the scene Wednesday night.
Monica Bruns, disaster program specialist, said Ortiz left with a family member who arrived at the scene and declined help with housing, food, clothing and more. Bruns said Ortiz did accept information about how to contact the Red Cross later for assistance or referrals to other agencies.
According to information given to the Red Cross, Ortiz lived at the home by himself, Bruns said.
“It is our understanding that he lived in the home alone,” she said.
Ortiz shared the home with a dog, which also escaped the fire, Bruns said. He took the dog with him to stay at his relative’s house, she said.

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