TALLMADGE — The cause of a Jan. 17 Hughes Drive fire, one of two house fires and a four-car crash that night, involved a wood burning stove and faulty mortar, Fire Chief Mike Passarelli said Wednesday.

No injuries were reported in any of the incidents.

Passarelli said the cause of a fire at an unoccupied Northwest Avenue home is still under investigation, adding he believes a cause will be determined within a week. Passarelli did not have a damage cost estimate yet for either fire.

At approximately 5:15 p.m. that evening, Tallmadge Fire Department and mutual aid units responded to a working fire in the 100 block of Northwest Avenue, Deputy Fire Chief Ben Stasik said. The house, which is unoccupied but owned by a local citizen, was empty when the fire broke out. It started on the first floor of the home and extended into the second floor, then the attic.

Passarelli said the home, which had been unoccupied for two years and is uninsured, sustained extensive fire damage in the living room and first- and second-floor hallways, with the fire making its way into the attic.

"We were pretty close to an attic fire in that one or burning the roof off," he said. "But they stopped it before it got out of the roof space."

Passarelli added there was also "heavy smoke damage in the building."

Barely half-an-hour later, at approximately 5:45 p.m., crews were called to reports of a fire in a home in Hughes Drive’s 500 block. A neighbor alerted the family inside the home that something did not look right. As it turned out, there was a working fire in the attic, Stasik said.

Passarelli said it has been determined that mortar around a pipe from a wood burning stove below failed where the pipe joined the chimney in the attic. Fire damage was confined to the attic, but firefighters also had to pull down part of a ceiling under the chimney and insulation blew in, creating a mess. Passarelli said there is also smoke damage throughout the house, making it uninhabitable, but the roof is undamaged and there is little water damage.

"The guys did a pretty good job, kind of restraining how much they put on it," he said.

The home’s electricity and gas have been shut off and the home’s insurer brought in a portable heater to prevent the house from freezing.

Units were on scene for approximately two-and-a-half hours for the Northwest fire and on scene for approximately two hours at the Hughes fire.

There was also a four-vehicle crash at the North Avenue and Overdale Drive intersection at a little before 6 p.m., with no injuries reported, said Police Chief Ron Williams. Williams said a 43-year-old Akron man was southbound on North and stopped at the light behind three other vehicles when he moved forward for an unknown reason and struck the vehicle ahead of him. That vehicle was pushed forward in a chain reaction that ultimately involved the two vehicles in front of it, said Williams. The Akron man was cited with assured clear distance ahead.

Stasik said that thanks to ample mutual aid, all of the incidents were safely handled.

Along with Tallmadge, crews from Akron, Mogodore and Munroe Falls fire departments assisted with the scene on Northwest. Crews from Kent, Brimfield Township, Mogadore and Suffied Township assisted Tallmadge on Hughes Drive.

Stasik said he was very proud and happy with both the efforts of the on-duty crews in Tallmadge and expressed his thanks to the mutual aid companies that came to help.

"Having two fires at the same time is a very rare occurrence, especially in a smaller suburban city like Tallmadge, so being able to rely on and ask for help from your neighbors is crucial and worked exactly as the system is designed to," Stasik said.

Editor’s note: Reporter Jeff Saunders contributed to this story.

Reporter Kaitlyn McGarvey can be reached at kmcgarvey@recordpub.com or on Twitter at @ktlynmcgrvy.