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Newly remodeled Bennett Valley 'dream home' damaged by two fires

A newly remodeled farmhouse, described as a dream home by its owner, was damaged twice by fire within an 11-hour period ending Tuesday morning in Bennett Valley.

"About half the house is destroyed and half the house is saved," said owner John McChesney, a retired National Public Radio reporter. "I think we can put it all back together."

Firefighters on Monday night put out the initial chimney fire at the Sonoma Mountain Road home. But an ember hiding in insulation apparently caused the doused fire to reignite Tuesday morning, further damaging the structure.

Firefighters returned at 5:44 a.m. when multiple 911 callers said the house was on fire again. Firefighters found the attic in flames.

The initial fire caused about $75,000 in damage, mostly to the roof and attic. The second fire about doubled the damage, estimated Bennett Valley Battalion Chief Dan George, who supervised both efforts.

The home is owned by Wendy Wiederhold and McChesney, who retired from NPR about two years ago.

"It was our dream home," McChesney said Tuesday afternoon.

"The disappointing part of it was, we thought we had it whipped, then we lost another third of the house," McChesney said.

The couple bought the home four years ago and had just completed remodeling, including a new kitchen. They understood the farmhouse dated back to about 1895.

George said an ember from the first fire, apparently in the insulation, smoldered until it ignited.


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