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Fire destroys Gainesville businessmans home
Blaze started in fireplace of 3-story house in Forsyth County
Firefighters spent a chilly night battling the blaze that destroyed this house early Monday morning in the Balmoral subdivision in Forsyth County. - photo by Jim Dean

A Gainesville businessman lost his home in an early morning blaze Monday in Southeastern Forsyth County.

The three-story, 10,500-square-foot house was owned by Paul Braza, a partner at Wilheit Packaging in Gainesville.

“It was a fireplace issue,” Braza said. “At first, I thought it was a small fire in the basement and it turned out the fire had built through the chute and was probably there for several hours, then it took off in the attic.”

Braza said his family was awakened by smoke detectors. As his wife grabbed the children, he went downstairs and, smelling smoke, “realized we had something going on and I grabbed a fire extinguisher.”

Braza said his wife left with the children while he called 911 and waited for help.

“When (firefighters) came, I jumped out of the house, thinking it was a small fire,” he said. “Lo and behold, it got worse and worse. I basically stood (outside) in dismay.”

“The home is absolutely going to be a total loss — everything from the second floor up is gone,” said Forsyth County Fire Division Chief Jason Shivers.

The fire, reported about 1:30 a.m., burned for hours, Shivers said.

By Monday afternoon, family and fire personnel were working to salvage items from the house, which is off Trammel Road in the Balmoral subdivision.

“We’ve been able to save quite a bit of personal belongings — paperwork, furniture, and those kinds of things — that are important to them,” Shivers said.

According to Shivers, the fire is still under investigation, though it appears to be accidental.

Braza praised firefighters for their work. “They did a good job and had great crews out there,” he said.

Because of the loss, Braza said his family would be staying with relatives for the time being. “We’re all good ... but we’ve got to be strong through it.”

Staff writer Jeff Gill and Jennifer Sami of the Times regional staff contributed to this report.