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Authorities investigate cause of blaze

Frederick County fire destroys three-story home

Dennis Grundman/Daily A Frederick County firefighter surveys the damage to a house after a fire at 260 Sawyer Lane on Wednesday morning.
By J.R. Williams - jrwilliams@nvdaily.com

WINCHESTER -- Fire officials are investigating a blaze that destroyed a Frederick County home early Wednesday.

Fire and rescue crews were called to 260 Sawyer Lane at 3:41 a.m. and arrived to find the home fully engulfed in flames, said Jeff Neal, assistant fire marshal for the county.

The home was unoccupied and there were no injuries, he said.

The homeowners, Doug and Suzanne Brackett, were on vacation at the time of the fire, but are now returning, he said.

The three-story home, built several years ago on a 3-acre lot, is buried in the Layside Estates neighborhood west of Winchester. Firetrucks were still arriving on the gravel road leading to the property Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters were spraying the home, which was still smoldering. The first and second floors were leveled save for a front facade. A nearby detached garage only had damage to its vinyl siding. The home's basement was left standing.

A white Ford Explorer in the driveway, which Neal said belonged to the homeowners, appeared to have minimal if any damage.

No other homes were affected. Firefighters had a continual presence at the home for more than 12 hours after the initial report, an emergency dispatcher said.

Neal declined to comment on a suspected cause of the fire, saying an investigation was still ongoing.

"We can't make entry into the house right now because it's still hot," he said. "It will be a day or two before we can make a determination on a cause."

He estimated damage to be between $400,000 and $500,000.

Neal also said it was too early to tell where the fire started.

"We'll be working on that to find out," he said.

Patricia Burkhart is one of few neighbors close by. She said another neighbor, Walter Marse, called 911 in the middle of the night.

"He said he heard this loud crackling noise," she said. "The flames were just going straight up. I came out here and looked over and it was just" -- she raised her hands -- "you could tell what was going on. The air was just horrible," she said.

Burkhart said the Bracketts kept to themselves in their quiet neighborhood. She said she last saw activity at the house about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, when both the Bracketts' vehicles were in the driveway.

"If I ever got into a situation where I needed some help, they would have been there," she said.

Frederick County fire companies from Clear Brook, Gore, Round Hill, Gainesboro and North Mountain responded to the fire.

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