AYER -- The Fire Department quickly brought under control a two-alarm fire at the single-family home at 90 Pleasant St. last Thursday. There were no injuries.
All six family pets survived the fire -- two dogs, two cats, a lizard and a ferret.
The dispatcher received the call at roughly 7:10 p.m. Thursday night.
"We had heavy fire coming out of this back porch," said Ayer Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi. "It came in as a mattress fire on the porch and it extended up into the attic and into the second floor. There was fire coming out of the two back windows."
Homeowner Karen Goudey was home at the time, saw the porch fire and called 911. Fire officials later confirmed what Goudey had suspected - the fire was electrical in nature.
"When I got home, I noticed that the light fixture in the kitchen wasn't working," said Goudey. When checking the circuit breaker in the basement, she noticed the basement light also wasn't working. She flicked the breaker, but the kitchen light still wasn't working, "so I went back downstairs and flipped it again, but when I flipped it the second time, it flipped right back again.
"I was like, uh-oh, that's not a good sign," said Goudey. Back up in the kitchen "I could smell that weird warm electrical smell and I thought, 'I hope the light isn't catching on fire.'"
When climbing a chair to inspect the kitchen ceiling light, Goudey noticed flames outside the kitchen window on the attached enclosed porch. "That's when the fire started.
"I made the call, grabbed the dogs and my coat and just got out," said Goudey.
After a mild, sunny but windy day on Thursday, temperatures dropped into the low 30s with windy conditions still present and a few scattered snowflakes falling. Next door neighbor Susan Igo at 88 Pleasant St. was among many concerned neighbors outside when the Fire Department arrived.
"I heard the sirens coming down the street," said Igo. "When I came outside the whole back end of the porch was engulfed in flames and it was starting to come through the roof in the back. They went in through the front door with the hoses and they were poking and breaking out windows to air out the house."
One cat got out and was darting around the neighborhood. Later another firefighter captured the second cat. A neighbor lent a cat carrier to bring the cat to safety.
The lizard was found safe. The ferret had been loose in the house at the time of the fire.
Pedrazzi said an Ayer firefighter was "just lucky" to find the scared critter when ripping apart the third-story attic walls. The firefighter cradled the ferret like a baby and carried him down a ladder to the front lawn and into Goudey's arms.
Pleasant Street is lined with colonials and Victorians that lack firewalls. Pedrazzi said the house "is balloon frame construction, so the fire can run fast."
The house is, at least temporarily, not habitable. There were no injuries reported.
Devens, Harvard and Shirley Fire departments assisted at the scene. Lunenburg Fire Department's ladder truck provided station coverage along with a Littleton engine.
UPDATE: The cause of this Thursday fire was confirmed to be electrical in nature on Friday, Feb. 1, the morning after the Jan. 31 fire.