News Briefs

News Briefs

<sh>Fire Destroys Franconia Home

<bt>A Sunday morning fire destroyed a Franconia home and left a man in the hospital with severe burns.

According to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, trucks responded on Sunday, at 10:50 a.m., to reports of a fire at a one-story, single-family home located at 6510 Rock-a-By Road in Franconia. When units arrived, they found "heavy fire visible from the front and left side of the structure," according to Lt. Raul Castillo with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. Firefighters battled the blaze for 30 minutes, but the house was declared a total loss.

Investigation revealed the source of the fire to be an unattended candle, which was located in a bedroom. Castillo said two people were home at the time of the fire, a woman in her 70s, and a man in his 50s. The man suffered "serious" burns and was taken to Washington Hospital Center, and the woman was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation. Castillo said it was unclear how long the fire burned before it was reported, and that the man was trying to put out the fire with a hose.

"If (the candle) somehow fell over, it could have been unnoticed for some time, until someone saw the fire, and then it would have been too late," he said.

Damage is estimated at $400,000 and the Red Cross is assisting the occupants.

<1b>— Glenn McCarty

<sh>Guilty of Hit and Run

<bt>Chad Harris, 23, pled guilty in Fairfax County Circuit Court Tuesday, March 15 to a hit and run accident.

Harris left the scene of an accident the night of Oct. 24, 2004, leaving the driver of the car he collided with trapped and injured, according to Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney John Murphy.

Harris walked away from his car and the scene of the accident while another motorist stopped to help the victim and call an ambulance and police, Murphy said. That citizen was able to give police a description of a man walking on the street, and police soon found Harris at a nearby gas station — "clearly intoxicated at the time," Murphy said. "The defendant indicated at that time, that the other guy ran a red light and he left the scene because he was scared."

George Freeman Jr., Harris' attorney, stated in court that Harris was about to call his mother from the gas station.

Harris, who remains free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced in late April in Circuit Court. The maximum sentenced he can receive is 10 years.

During his arguments, Murphy said Harris already pled guilty to DWI in General District Court.

<1b>— Ken Moore

<sh>River Cleanup set for April 2

<bt>This year’s annual Potomac River cleanup sponsored by the Alice Ferguson Foundation will be on Saturday, April 2, from 9 a.m.-noon. This is the 16th year for the cleanup.

The foundation coordinates cleanup site in the Potomac River watershed across West Virginia, Maryland, Washington and Virginia. Hundreds of tons of debris have been removed in recent years.

The cleanup is not just along the Potomac, but also along its tributaries. In the Fairfax area, a cleanup will be conducted at the Fairfax County Government Center. The group will meet in the Government Center parking lot around 9 a.m., said Krystal Kearns who is coordinating the site’s cleanup.

Over the years, Kearns said, the cleanup, along a stretch of Difficult Run, has found items like shopping carts, railroad ties, a Dumpster and “Sweating to the Oldies” cassette tapes.

The site will cover the stream from Government Center Parkway to Random Hills Road. “We’re expecting a mid-sized group,” Kearns said. “The site is well-known and it is good for all ages.” The location, however, is not wheelchair accessible.

While volunteers can just show up, Kearns would like people interested in coming to her site to register so she can have a sense of how many people are coming. “I want to make sure that I have supplies for everybody who comes,” she said. Kearns can be contacted at

For more information on the cleanup, and a listing of other cleanup sites, visit

<sh>Citizen Corps Meets March 30

<bt>Fairfax County hosts the next meeting of the Northern Virginia Citizen Corps Council on Wednesday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the Fairfax County Public Safety Center, 4100 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax. The focus of the meeting is the Neighborhood Watch program, one of five programs under the Citizen Corps umbrella. Fairfax County officials will share highlights of its nationally-known program that was established in 1979, and how, under the Citizen Corps, the program is promoting emergency preparedness. Following presentations from attending jurisdictions, there will be a question and answer session. For more information about the Fairfax County Citizen Corps program, call the Fairfax County Office of Emergency Management at 703-324-2362, TTY 711, or visit

<sh>Park Authority Adjusts Rates

<bt>The Fairfax County Park Authority Board recently approved a compromise proposal to adjust the existing senior and youth discounts for facility use and program fees. The action was taken after hundreds of citizens took advantage of the chance to air their opinions during an extended public comment period. Applicable senior and youth fee discounts will reduce from 50 percent to 45 percent effective on May 1. The increase in age eligibility for seniors (from 60 to 61) will not be effective until January 2006. Other fee proposal adjustments approved by the Park Authority Board will go into effect April 1. For more information contact the Public Information Office at 703-324-8662.