Rob Mankin had just driven past the brick house on Batten Hollow Road on Dec. 4, at about 6:50 p.m., as he was making a delivery for Domino's Pizza further down the street. At first, it didn't appear anything unusual was happening. "It just looked like the chimney was putting out too much smoke or something," said Mankin, 45, a McLean resident who has worked for Dominos for 17 years.
On his way back out of the neighborhood north of Vienna, Mankin took another look at the house. "I noticed something didn't look right," he said. He stopped his car and went to investigate. "I could see [the house] was all full of smoke. … In one room it was flickering a little, like a candle."
Mankin wasn't sure if something was wrong, so he went around the back of the house. He didn't find anything there and went to a neighbor's house to ask if they knew what was happening.
When he didn't find anyone at the neighbor's, Mankin returned to the burning building. He called the store where he is based and had them place a call to 911.
Mankin went up to the front of the house and could see smoke filling the windows. The front door was unlocked so Mankin opened it and went in. "I laid down on the floor and started calling for people," he said. "The whole place was full of smoke."
The smoke was too thick and Mankin was forced to retreat back out of the house. He went to another neighbor's house, this one was home, and was told that someone who lived in the house was known to have seizures, so Mankin went back to go in again. "It seemed like he needed my help," the delivery driver said. "Whoever was in there needed my help."
The neighbor provided Mankin with a wet towel to use to cover his mouth. So equipped, he was able to go further into the house. The home was a split level, Mankin said, and he reached the stairs. "In the upstairs, smoke is coming out of everywhere," he said.
IN THE LOWER area, Mankin saw some shapes, and realized that one of them was a cat. "It was on the couch, not moving with its eyes closed," he said.
Mankin called out to the cat and was able to grab it and take it from the building. He went back in and crawled throughout the house, searching the room where he found the cat and the other rooms on the houses lower levels. "Every room in the house was completely filled with smoke.
Mankin tried to go upstairs, but the smoke and heat were too intense. He left just as the fire department arrived. The first units reported smoke coming out of the building, according to a Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department press release.
EMTs on the scene treated Mankin for smoke inhalation. "My chest hurt. My lungs hurt," he said. He was then treated further at a local hospital.
Although Mankin was there after firefighters had put out the blaze, it was not until much later that he found out there was a person in the house. "I didn't know it was anything," he said.
A resident of the house, Glenn Donsanto, 35, was found dead inside. The cause of the fire was determined to be improperly discarded smoking materials. Property damage was estimated to be $25,000.