An early morning house fire Feb. 5 is the third in less than a month caused by improperly discarded smoking material, said Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Public Information Officer Laura Rinehart.
Just after 7 a.m. Feb. 5, the county Emergency Communication Center dispatched units to a reported structure fire in the 43300 block of Cedar Pond Place in South Riding. Fire and rescue units from South Riding, Brambleton, Moorefield, Dulles Airport and Fairfax County were dispatched.
Firefighters arrived on scene and found a single family home with fire coming from the rear deck of the house, extending into the residence. Additional fire and rescue resources were requested to supplement fire crews and ensure the safety of responders. Firefighters found the homeowners safe outside, Rinehart said.
Crews worked to extinguish the fire on the exterior and then moved inside to find fire extending up the back of the home and into the attic. Firefighters advanced hoselines into the attic space to put out the remaining fire and check for additional hot spots, Rinehart said.
The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s investigation found the cause of the fire to be accidental, resulting from improperly discarded smoking materials in the rear of the home. Damages are estimated at $100,000 and the family has been displaced. There we no injuries to civilians or firefighters.
Smoke alarms alerted the family to the fire, which allowed them to escape unharmed. Rinehart said the family was lucky because as the fire spread upward along the outside walls and penetrated into the attic, the heat appears to have been significant enough to break a window, allowing smoke into the home to activate smoke alarms.
In a rapidly moving exterior fire, smoke alarms or sprinklers may be bypassed and not activate as the fire extends up combustible siding and into the roof. In these situations, there is the potential for catastrophic roof collapse without occupants being aware, potentially trapping them in a deadly fire, Rinehart said.
On Feb. 3rd, firefighters responded to a house fire on Eastgate View Drive in Chantilly. A small fire had started on the back deck of a townhouse as a result of improperly discarded smoking materials. Fortunately, an alert neighbor saw the fire and immediately alerted the residence. Prior to fire department arrival, the tenant had extinguished the fire, containing the damages to the exterior of the structure. Fortunately in this case, the fire was able to be extinguished before extending up the exterior and into the attic and adjoining townhomes. Damages in this incident were estimated at $5,000 and there were no injuries, Rinehart said.
In another incident on January 10th, improperly discarded smoking materials were to blame for a house fire on Harmony Church Road that did $75,000 in damages and displaced residents. In that fire, two firefighters sustained burn injuries and were transported to a local hospital for care, Rinehart said.
Smoking materials such as cigarettes, cigars and pipes are the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association.