Last week was a busy one for local firefighters, battling two residential fires in three days. Three apartments in Centreville burned last Thursday, April 7, followed by a house fire, Sunday, April 10, in Chantilly.
Sunday's blaze started around 3:50 p.m. and caused an estimated $600,000 damage to a two-story, Colonial home at 13202 Shady Ridge Lane in the Franklin Glen community. Luckily, the homeowner and a friend escaped unhurt.
"Someone banged on our door and said, 'Your neighbor's house is on fire,'" said Brad Newsome, who lives to the right of the home. "He and I went next door [to alert the homeowner], but there was no answer. So I yelled to a neighbor and she called the fire department."
For safety's sake, Newsome got his two children — boy and girl twins, 8 — out of his own house. "Then [the homeowner] came out and got his car out of the garage, and I moved mine, too," he said. "Then the fire department came."
By then, said Newsome, "The deck was already on fire and, within two minutes, it was going. The fire spread very fast. It went upstairs and through the attic and came out the other side, in six or seven minutes. The whole top floor was in flames. We were very fortunate that no one was hurt."
The homeowner, a widower, lives there with his son, in his early 20s. The son wasn't at home at the time, and the dad had been cooking food for himself and a guest, outside on a gas-fed smoker/grill on the rear deck. Fire investigators deemed the fire accidental, saying it was caused by the unattended smoker.
"I feel sorry for the poor guy," said neighbor Janis Miller. "Our hearts go out to him. We saw the flames behind the house and called 911. Within 15 minutes, the house was heavily on fire. It's just a shame — very sad."
First-arriving units reported fire through the roof and rear of the house. Firefighters requested a second alarm, and that resulted in more than 60 emergency personnel rushing to the scene. Personnel responded from the Chantilly and Fair Oaks fire stations, as well as from Frying Pan, Fox Mill, Reston and Oakton.
THEY WERE able to bring the blaze under control in about 25 minutes. Newsome said he wasn't worried about his own house catching fire because "the wind was blowing the other way." However, his home did sustain some damage. Said Newsome: "We had two windows broken on that side of the house, and some minor soffit damage."
Radiant heat from the fire also caused the siding to peel in the back of the home to the left of the one that burned. Fire officials estimate $8,000 damage to each of the homes on either side of it.
"I was on my way home and saw the smoke, and different neighbors were calling 911," said Mary Sue Kotula, whose home is behind Newsome's. Worried about the father and son, she said, "We'd hoped the fire could be caught before it got to the house, but it went so quickly."
Afterward, friends and neighbors looked after the victims, and Kotula said they received "overwhelming support" from people in the community. "They stayed with me [Sunday] night, and neighbors were immediately bringing clothes to my doorstep for them," she said. "It was unbelievable the way people helped out. It was very heartwarming to know that so many people cared."
The fire department cares, too, and reminds residents cooking outdoors that grills should be placed at least 15 feet from any home or combustible so enough air circulates. Keep charcoal dry, because wet charcoal can spontaneously ignite.
Never dispose of hot ashes in paper or plastic — only in metal containers, and know that it's illegal to use grills on apartment or condo balconies. Most of all, added fire department spokesman Dan Schmidt: "When you barbecue, do not leave your barbecue unattended."