COVINGTON -- Two families are displaced following fires that ravaged their homes this week.
Newton County Fire Service was called to 95 Riverbrooke Trail off Ga. Highway 212 at 3:44 p.m. Tuesday. Firefighters saw a heavy column of smoke as they left Station 3 on Ga. Highway 36 several miles away, said Chief Mike Satterfield.
"Once they arrived they reported heavy fire coming from the roof and the home was well-involved with fire," he said.
A mother and four children were at home at the time the fire broke out and were uninjured.
"The mother said she saw some smoke out the window but a neighbor was burning leaves and she thought that's what it was until it just turned black and (the house) was on fire," he said.
The family lost most of their belongings and were receiving assistance from the Red Cross and the property management company that owns the house, Satterfield said.
Investigators believe the fire to be accidental, he said.
"We believe it started due to an electrical problem on the back porch. We're still looking into it. There were appliances stored out there," he said.
A home at 65 Brookwood Drive off Dixie Road was destroyed by fire Monday afternoon.
"It started in the bedroom and the house was heavily involved and it burned through the center of the house. It was not livable," Satterfield said.
Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of that fire, he said.
Meanwhile, Covington First United Methodist Church is collecting donations to assist the family at the Brookwood Drive residence, which includes two children, a mother and grandmother. Needed are food, clothing, toiletries or gift cards, along with clothes for male children, including small and medium shirts, pants in size 8 and 10, and shoes in size 2 and 3, as well as adult female pants, sizes 8/10 and 14/16 and medium and large shirts.
Donations may be dropped off at the church, located at 1113 Conyers St.
Satterfield said the fire department usually sees an uptick in fires when the weather turns colder.
"There are more structural fires because when it's really cold you have those subfreezing nights and below and it puts more stress on the heating system and people use auxiliary heating systems that need more attention and more maintenance, like electric heaters," he said.
It's not uncommon for people to forget to unplug electric heaters, and some automatically turn on when the house cools down at night, he said. If heaters are left near upholstery such as drapes they could easily catch the house on fire. Holiday lights can be another source of fire this season.
"Use only approved portable heaters and lighting systems and be aware those systems sometimes are overworked and you need to be careful with them and shut those off when you're not at home," Satterfield said.