A fire on Monday night caused extensive damage to a house near the Potomac Village. “It appears to have been a total loss,” said Gene Rosser, spokesman for Cabin John Park Volunteer Fire Department. No one was injured.
At about 11 p.m. on April 19, firefighters from Cabin John, Bethesda, Rockville, the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Glen Echo responded to the fire on the 10100 block of Limestone Court. The four-person family had evacuated and none of them were injured.
Residents had smelled an odor earlier in the evening, but were unsure of it’s origin, said a press release from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
Shortly before 11, they smelled smoke while evacuating the house and saw fire on the sun porch extending up to the second floor.
By the time firefighters arrived on the scene, the house was completely engulfed in flame, Roesser said. “The whole house was fully involved,” he said. “It was an amazingly fast fire.”
Two children were asleep upstairs while their parents were in the basement, said Roesser. When the mother took some items upstairs and saw the flames in the back, she immediately went upstairs to wake the children,” Roesser said. “Had she not gone upstairs at that time, we might have had a real tragedy,” Roesser said. “She was a very, very quick-acting mom.”
The fire was so extensive and the building in such a bad state, that firemen were, at first, more worried about the neighboring houses, having realized the burning house would be a total loss. “The initial attack was to protect the exposure,” Roesser said.
The house was a wooden structure with a brick veneer in the front.
It took firefighters about 40 minutes to get the fire under control.
At this time, fire investigators believe that the fire was caused by some oily rags stored in tight plastic bags behind the house. The rags heated up from sitting out in the sun all afternoon and combusted.
“It’s somewhat rare, but it does happen,” said Pete Piringer, spokesperson for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service. Piringer said the house had been damaged during Hurricane Isabel, and that renovations on it were just being completed, so there was construction material near the combusting rags. “Those were just the right conditions,” Piringer said.
Roesser warns that such rags do not necessarily need a heat source like the sun to start burning, and that people should be careful about disposing of them. “The best thing to do is to dispose of them properly,” he said.
Roesser said that rags should be taken to the transfer station where they can be handled safely and disposed of.
The Fire Department estimates the damage to be $1.5 million in structural damage. According to state land records, the 3,016 square foot house, and the land it is on, have a combined assessed value of $605,660.
The property damage is estimated to be $500,000, including a car parked in the garage which was destroyed.
Damage to the neighbor’s house is estimated to be $30,000, according to the Fire Department.