updated 11/23/2005 2:54:33 PM ET 2005-11-23T19:54:33

A construction worker’s tradition of cooking a turkey for an early Thanksgiving celebration went awry when a deep fryer caught fire, burning the house he and his co-workers had just finished building.

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Cement worker Henry Schmerber bought a propane fryer Tuesday and set it up inside the vacant house’s garage. Workers took turns watching the kettle.

But the fryer’s thermometer was broken, and oil inside the kettle overheated, spilling onto the burner and igniting, workers said. Flames spread through the garage and up the front of the house to the second floor.

The men used a fire extinguisher to no avail.

Eugene District Fire Chief Paul Dammen estimated the loss at $75,000. The home, which had not been sold, was insured.

Undaunted, Schmerber and his co-workers bought a second turkey and cooked it in the backyard of a house across the street.

“We’re gonna burn another house down,” Schmerber joked.

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