Fire Department: Owner to blame for house fire

WILLOWS, Calif. - Patricia Thornton, who lived in one of the oldest houses in the one of the oldest neighborhoods in Willows on North Merrill Avenue, saw her house ablaze Thursday morning.    

The Willows Fire Department said Thornton, who lives alone, removed a natural gas tank from her fireplace, set it in the living room and went outside.  Shortly afterward a fire started in her living room, destroying many personal items including antiques.

She dashed to a neighbor's house, who called for help.

"I saw smoke coming off the porch and coming out the south end," said Rena Johnson, who lives across the street from Thornton.

"Structurally the damage isn't bad," said Wayne Peabody, the Willows Fire Chief. "But there's an extensive amount of smoke and fire damage in the living room area."

The silver lining is that Thornton is insured for house damage and its contents. 

However, she can't replace the personal items filled with years of memories.       

Estimated damage was $60,000 in structural loss and $40,000 in personal items.

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