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Early morning fire destroys home, forces nine to evacuate

By Joe Beck

An early morning fire Saturday destroyed most of a Front Royal home and forced the evacuation of nine family members living there.

Warren County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard E. Mabie said in a news release that firefighters were called to the fire scene at 437 Overlook Drive as they were returning to the station from another call. Mabie said they arrived to a find a single-story home with flames coming out of basement windows and on the underside of an overhanging section of a roof eave.

Mabie said the nine occupants of the house, including owners Richard and Marilyn Holland, escaped without injury.

He said the roof collapsed within 12 minutes of the firefighters' arrival, and the ensuing damage left the house a total loss, except for the foundation.

Mabie said in an interview Monday that the fire started when a space heater accidentally tipped over in the basement bedroom of a teen-aged girl. The sound of the fire awakened her, and she alerted the family, he said.

"Dad came downstairs," Mabie said. "They tried to throw some water on it, but it didn't do any good , and then they all evacuated the house."

No smoke alarms were found or known to have operated, Mabie said.

In an interview Monday, Mabie estimated damage at $175,000 on a home he assumed to be valued at "a little over the $200,000 range."

"It's basically totaled," he said of the house.

Mabie said the house was occupied by three generations of family members including grandparents, parents and children, the oldest of which is 16. He said he believed they were staying at a hotel in Winchester where they went after receiving help from the American Red Cross.

He said the size of the family complicated efforts to find shelter for them near their home.

"Because there were so many of them, they had a hard time getting rooms in Front Royal on a Saturday," Mabie said.

Mabie said the space heater was sitting on a plastic chair similar to the kind commonly found on patios or decks. It ignited the chair and clothes on it, and the fire spread quickly throughout the basement and on to the wrap-around porch, attic and roof.

Mabie said space heaters and other artificial sources of heat should be placed at least 36 inches away from combustibles. He also urged residents to maintain working smoke alarms in their homes.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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