LEEDS — A fire Wednesday morning left a River Road man homeless and investigators searching for a cause of the blaze.

Leeds Fire Chief Glenn Holt said nobody was hurt in the fire, but the home was destroyed.

Homeowner Larry Hewins, 63, who lived alone in the house, said he has insurance but he is unsure if it will cover the loss.

The fire occurred just two doors down from a July 2014 fire that destroyed a large farmhouse on the same side of the road.

Holt called the American Red Cross to help Hewins with clothes and shelter. He also contacted the Leeds Community Church on nearby Church Hill Road to help provide Hewins with necessities. Hewins, who has relatives in the area, said he would have a place to stay but was still unsure where that would be.

“I’ll stay with somebody for a while until I decide what’s going to happen,” Hewins said. “It’s late in the year now to try and build a house.”

Holt said that he called for an investigator from the Office of the State Fire Marshal to look into the blaze, but said the fire is not considered suspicious. Hewins, who was away from home when the fire broke out, said he had not yet had the season’s first fire in the woodstove.

A passer-by reported the fire around 9 a.m. when flames were already blowing out the windows.

“When the first call came in, it was fully involved,” Holt said.

Half the roof already had caved in by the time firefighters arrived. Unable to save the house, crews turned their attention to a large garage about 40 feet behind the burning home. The garage was not damaged, Holt said.

A 1947 Chevrolet on Wednesday was parked several yards away from the garage. Hewins has spent the past five years restoring the car.

“My boy came down and got that out of the garage,” Hewins said. “We couldn’t get in the house. There was nothing we could do in there, so he said, ‘You’ve got to at least get that out.'”

Firefighters from nearby Monmouth, as well as Greene, Turner and Wales, helped Leeds crews battle the blaze. Holt said it took about 45 minutes to get the fire under control and about another hour to put the fire out.

“The worst problem was it had a steel roof on it,” Holt said, explaining such roofing not only traps the heat inside, turning the building into a large oven, but makes it difficult to get water to the flames.

“It’s a sad thing,” Holt said. “By the time it was discovered, there wasn’t saving anything.”

Hewins, who is retired, was surrounded by relatives and friends a couple of hours after the fire. He replayed the morning’s events over in his head, looking for some clue about how the fire might have started. Nothing came to mind.

“Everything was normal,” Hewins said. “I got up, did this, did that, sat around the while, and I left. I was probably gone an hour or longer, and my sister called and said it was on fire.”

Hewins has lived in the house, which he built himself, since 1977. He raised his children there. The pictures and mementos he collected over those years and from the grandchildren who have arrived since then were all buried in the ashes.

“It’s stuff you can’t replace,” he said. “It’s just gone, you know.”

Hewins recalled the times he has been with people who have lost everything to a fire, including last year’s blaze just down the street.

“I’ve seen fires, and you feel so bad for the people,” he said. “Now it’s you.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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