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Barn Fire Causes $100,000 in Damages

Holiday season most dangerous time of year for fires.

A barn fire on Persimmon Tree Road Sunday morning drew firefighters from Rockville, Bethesda and Fairfax County, Va. and caused an estimated $100,000 in damages.

The fire mostly destroyed the barn on a private property next to Connelly School of the Holy Child, but did not spread to the residence. No people or horses were injured, but a dog inside the barn was killed, according to Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.

A heat lamp inside the barn sparked the fire at around 9:20 a.m. Sunday, Piringer said.

The large blaze also drew rescue units from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock and the National Institutes of Health.

One reason so many different stations responded is that the fire was in a section of Potomac where fire hydrants are "few and far between" according to Piringer, making several tanker trucks necessary.

"You could see [the fire] from miles away," Piringer said.

The homeowner, Ned Williams, is the head of Mater Dei School on Seven Locks Road. He could not be reached prior to the Almanac's press time.

THE BARN FIRE came on an unusually busy morning amid an unusually busy month for county firefighters, Piringer said.

A furnace malfunction sparked a house fire in Bethesda that forced a man onto his roof where he was rescued by firefighters around 6:30 a.m. Over 70 firefighters responded to the fire and damage is estimated to be more than $500,000, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue.

At around 10 the same morning a Wheaton man was transported to Washington Hospital Center with serious burns after a flammable cleaning solution fueled a basement flash fire in a rental home. Some 15 people were displaced from what Piringer called "an illegal basement apartment." The house did not have a smoke detector and violated several fire codes.

County officials estimate that damage from fires during a 10-day period beginning Dec. 2 exceed $3.5 million countywide.

On Dec. 2, Joseph Walsh, 80, became the fifth person to die in a fire in Montgomery County this year, during a fire in the Leisure World retirement community.

THE WINTER, and especially the holiday season, is the worst time of year for fires for several reasons, Piringer said.

Cooking is the leading cause of fires in the United States year-round and for many people the holidays mean more cooking and more distractions, which can be a dangerous combination.

The use of space heaters and furnaces in the winter, along with dry air also contribute to fires.

And candles used in Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations are sometimes left unattended or placed too close to curtains or fabrics, also leading to fires.