Fire at Coach Rivera's house started in gas fireplace

Investigators say a fireplace is the cause of a fire that caused approximately a half million dollars damage to the home of Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera early Monday morning.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Investigators say a fireplace is the cause of a fire that caused approximately a half million dollars damage to the home of Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera early Monday morning.

Rivera expects to be out of the house on Heydon Hall Circle at least six to eight months, but says he is just grateful everyone is alive and there were no injuries.

Six people were inside the home when it started on fire, including two of Rivera's brothers and their spouses. Two dogs also got out unharmed.

"We're very fortunate," Rivera said.

Rivera and his wife woke to the smell of smoke around 3:30 Monday morning. The sound of alarms soon followed. Crews arrived to find smoke showing from the house. Officials said the attic and roof of the 7,000-square foot home were damaged during the fire.

The fire department says a gas fireplace burned for several hours Sunday and thinks something might have smoldered and caused a fire to get into a wall.

"The master bedroom is, I don't want to say destroyed, but pretty close. The family room is, the living room and there's a lot of smoke damage, water damage," he said.

Nearly 60 firefighters fought the fire for about an hour.

"Probably the greatest thing is they saved a lot of our personal mementos, everything from our wedding album to our wedding pictures," Rivera said.

Players say Rivera is good at focusing on the task at hand and teaching them how to handle things personally and professionally.

Now, the coach is the one with that balancing act after the fire.

"He'll do what's necessary for his family and for the team and I don't think either side will suffer," said tight end Greg Olson.

Players got a text from Rivera saying it is business as usual.

"I know he won't let it get in the way of what we're trying to accomplish," said safety Roman Harper.

Rivera's Panthers will play Saturday in an NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. The fire comes two days after the Panthers beat the Arizona Cardinals 27-16 in an NFC wild-card game, Rivera's first postseason win in his four seasons in Carolina.

The Panthers were not scheduled to practice Monday. Rivera said that preparations for Seattle are "business as usual".

This is the second significant off-the-field problem to hit the Panthers in less than a month; quarterback Cam Newton was injured in a two-vehicle accident on December 9 and was hospitalized overnight with two fractures in his lower back. Newton missed one game but was able to return the following week.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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