Ron Rivera, family OK after fire

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his family are OK after firefighters battled a blaze at his house that caused significant damage early Monday morning.

Rivera told reporters at the scene he heard smoke detectors going off, and Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton confirmed that everyone in the house got out safely.

"Everybody is OK, and that's the most important thing," Dayton said.

The Charlotte Fire Department ruled the fire was accidental and was caused by the fireplace. They said the cost of damage was approximately $500,000.

Rivera said his brothers had been watching football all day and had the fireplace on.

"They're football junkies and they were watching football all day. They had the fireplace on for quite a few hours," he said. "When we got done that night and when I got home and watched the end of the game and shut it down and went to bed it somehow just smoldered and kicked into high gear later on."

Rivera's sister-in-law told the television station that six people -- Rivera, his wife, Stephanie, his two brothers and their wives -- were in the house when the fire started.

According to officials, 55 firefighters responded to the two-alarm call around 4 a.m. ET and found heavy smoke and flames coming from the house. A hole was cut in the roof of the three-story brick house to get the fire under control, and the family's pets were also rescued.

"You are looking at a large house with damage to the roof and attic area," Capt. Rob Brisley, a department spokesman, said at a news conference. "Anytime you are faced with a fire and your family is displaced, it is significant for the homeowner and it is significant for the family. We are just grateful that there are no injuries."

It took firefighters more than an hour to get the flames under control.

"The challenge with this large house was this fire had escaped to the roof area and it required more firefighters and extra hoses to contain," Brisley said. "The fire department was able to control this fire in about an hour, but we have a long morning ahead of us. The primary focus will be taking care of the family and their needs along with investigating the fire."

Brisley said Rivera's family will not be able to stay in the house in the short term. Rivera is working on temporary living arrangements.

Rivera said he had neighbors providing coffee and making breakfast for his family.

"We're fortunate we live in a terrific neighborhood," he said. "A lot of Panther fans, that was huge. It most certainly did speak very highly to southern hospitality and neighborly feelings towards one another."

"We're very fortunate, but we're all right," he added. "This opportunity to work, opportunity to continue to work, is very reassuring. This could have been worse, like Cam's situation could have been worse, but it wasn't. So we're very fortunate, and we're not going to look back. In a lot of ways, like I said, it's kind of like 'It's a Wonderful Life.'

"You realize, you recognize and you understand. You see things through a different set of eyes now. It wasn't quite as harrowing, but none the less, it's there. I hope everybody understands that Stephanie and I are OK. We're very fortunate."

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said he learned of Rivera's house fire in a text early this morning from his father. He then texted Rivera and was assured everything was all right.

He is not worried about it being a distraction in preparation to face the Seattle Seahawks.

"We've said it around here for a long time: The one thing we do a good job with, we do a good job of keeping the focus on the task at hand," Olsen said. "These personal off-the-field things that do come up during the season, Coach has set a good example of how to handle that.

"If anybody is prepared for it, it'll be him."

Rivera echoed the sentiment.

"Most of the stress will be at home," he said. "[Football] is easy, this really is. This will be a great way for me to take my mind off it just for a little bit."

The fire was two days after the Panthers (8-8-1) beat Arizona 27-16 in an NFC wild-card game to advance to a Saturday showdown with defending Super Bowl champion Seattle (12-4) in a divisional-round playoff game.

The Panthers have had plenty of off-the-field distractions this season, from defensive end Greg Hardy being placed on the commissioner's exempt list until his domestic violence case is resolved to quarterback Cam Newton being involved in a car crash on Dec. 9.

"There are stories every year," Olsen said. "Car accident to your starting quarterback. Head coach's house catches fire. Those are things I don't think anybody ever [expects] to be in your story."

Tight end Brandon Williams and backup quarterback Joe Webb hadn't heard about the fire when they arrived at the stadium around 11 a.m. Strong safety Roman Harper said he heard about it around 8 a.m. ET.

"I know Coach Rivera will be fine," Harper said. "I know he won't let it get in his way of what we're trying to get accomplished."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.