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Fire Causes $285,000 Damage

A fire late Saturday night caused an estimated $285,000 damage to a Centreville townhouse and displaced a family of four. And the resulting smoke-and-water damage sustained by the townhouse immediately next door forced that couple out, as well.

THE FIRE began at 14005 Sawteeth Way in the Deerfield Ridge community. Investigators with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department say the blaze was accidental, caused by "improperly discarded smoking materials on the rear deck."

"I was upstairs sleeping and I heard somebody screaming," said Sung Hong, who lives in the townhouse across the lawn from that one. "I thought it was somebody playing around, so I ignored it. About 10 minutes later, I heard screaming again and looked out of the window and saw fire on the roof."

He quickly woke up his wife and two children and came downstairs. Then, to his horror, on his way down, he looked out another window and saw firefighters spraying water at his own home.

"I thought my house had caught on fire, too, so I told my family, "We've got to go!" said Hong. "It's at least 40 feet between the homes, but the fire was so hot that the siding on my house was melting from the heat."

The neighborhood is just off Old Centreville Road, across from the Burger King — and a stone's throw from Centreville's Fire Station 17. So before anyone called to report the incident, firefighters returning to the station saw the flames and headed straight for them.

Because the houses were so close together and the blaze began at night — when most people are home — the incident quickly went to a second alarm. That brought more than 60 emergency personnel and 28 pieces of equipment from seven other fire stations: West Centreville (Station 38), Clifton, Oakton, Fair Oaks, Chantilly, Fairfax Center and City of Fairfax.

The fire broke out June 23 around 11:35 p.m., and first-responding units encountered flames and smoke to the rear of 14005. It's a brick, three-story, attached, end unit.

Flames quickly raced up the home's vinyl-siding exterior and into the attic before consuming the roof. No one was injured, but it took firefighters some 25 minutes to bring the fire under control.

A HUSBAND, wife and two children live in that townhouse, but Hong said he didn't believe the husband was home at the time. The wife and children escaped unharmed.

Sydney Nelson, across the street, is in her fifth year of living in this neighborhood. She wasn't home Saturday night, but she returned Sunday and said discovering there'd been a fire on her street was both "scary and shocking." Besides that, she said, "We were worried in case it was caused by something in the house. Then we'd have to get ours fixed."

Her next-door neighbor, Tracy Kirk, wasn't home at the start of the blaze, but returned around 1 a.m. and couldn't enter her street from Old Centreville Road. "We saw the firetrucks everywhere, she said. "They were on the road and in here and they'd blocked off the street, so we came in the back way, through Little Rocky Run."

Before she was able to reach her neighborhood, however, she was plenty worried. "We didn't know whose house it was," explained Kirk, a three-year resident. "And then I thought, 'Oh, my goodness, is everybody OK?' We were scared they might have been hurt. But I asked a firefighter and he said everybody got out OK."

She said the flames were quelled by that time, but the firefighters were still busy. "They'd put out the fire, but it was still smoldering," said Kirk. "I saw some smoke."

Hong, who's lived there three years, said his insurance adjuster estimated the damage to his melted and buckled siding at $4,200. But he'll have to pay a $1,000 deductible unless his neighbor is found negligent.

And he said the couple whose townhouse is attached to 14005 is upset because of the severe smoke-and-water damage their home sustained. Until it can be aired out and repaired — which could take months — they have no place to live.

Said Hong: "Yesterday you've got a home, and today you're homeless — and it's not even your fault."