The south Charlotte home of Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera caught fire Monday morning, causing no injuries but leaving the brick house uninhabitable.
The fire was reported just before 4 a.m. Rivera said he and his wife were asleep when the fire started.
“Stephanie kind of rustled awake, and I followed right behind her. We both kind of said at the same time, ‘I think I smell smoke.’ ” Rivera said. “She turned the lights on and the house was filled with smoke.”
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Charlotte Fire Capt. Rob Brisley said there was significant damage to the house’s roof and attic. Investigators said the fire was accidental and started in the fireplace. The Charlotte Fire Investigation Task Force said the fire caused $500,000 in damage.
Rivera said the first-floor gas fireplace had been used for several hours Sunday while his brothers were watching football.
On Monday morning, Rivera told the Observer: “You know what they say: We’re rebuilding.”
The family is staying with neighbors while a recovery team works on Rivera’s house.
“They won’t be able to live there in the short term,” Brisley said.
The coach spoke in detail about the fire Monday afternoon during his regularly scheduled news conference at Bank of America Stadium.
“The house sustained some damage, but probably the greatest thing was (firefighters) saved a lot of our personal mementos,” Rivera said. “Everything from our wedding album to our wedding pictures, family photos. I mean, those are the kinds of things that you can’t replace, and we are very fortunate.”
The Riveras’ pets were also rescued. His two children weren’t in the house. They flew back to California from Charlotte on Sunday.
Rivera sent a text message to secondary coach Steve Wilks saying that everything was OK and that the team would conduct “business as usual.” Wilks relayed the message to Panthers players.
The Rivera family’s house was still decorated for the holidays, with garlands and a wreath festooned with Panthers colors hanging outside. The first call about the fire at the home on Heydon Hall Circle came from the alarm company that monitors the home’s security system, which had been activated by smoke. When firefighters responded, they saw heavy smoke and fire.
More than 50 firefighters were dispatched, and they took a little over an hour to get the fire under control.
The Panthers travel to Seattle this weekend to play the Seahawks on Saturday in the second round of the NFL playoffs.