Squirrel Hunter Sets House on Fire

Lesson: Don't put cayenne pepper in a leaf blower

CHICAGO -- When George Ivy returned recently to his Broadview home after a long day at work, he walked into a mess after squirrels had torn into a loaf of bread.

"I thought a burglar broke into my house," he said. "It was squirrels. They were eating while I was at work. They had Thanksgiving before I had Thanksgiving."

Instead of setting a trap for the squirrels, Ivy accidentally set his house on fire. The truck driver tried using cayenne pepper and a leaf blower to drive out his uninvited guests.

"I just dropped enough in there and put the blower in there so it could circulate," Ivy said.

However, instead of rodents running out of the vents, smoke and flames came out pouring out.

"When it made contact with the hot fan from the exhaust fan in the kitchen, it ignited, then with the leaf blower, as Mr. Ivy was trying to force it through the openings trying to get to where the squirrels were, it caught fire and was acting like a blowtorch," said Broadview Fire Chief John Tierney.

In hindsight, Ivy said he realizes he should have left the job up to professionals.

"Make sure that it is a squirrel, (and then) set up a professional trapping service," said Kevin Connelly of A-Alert Exterminating Service. "Then, discuss with the homeowner the reasons why he has the problem and the repairs he needs to stop the problem."

While Ivy's insurance should cover the damage, he said it won't make up for the 11 years he spent remodeling his home.

"I won't ever try it again," Ivy said. "I'll tell everybody else, 'Don't you try it.'"

Ivy said he has friends and family he plans to spend the holidays with, and said he was thankful his house was the only thing he lost in the explosion.

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