Woodstove ash fire damages Front Royal home

By Katie Demeria

A fire in Front Royal on Monday displaced a family of five and caused $30,000 in damage.

Firefighers responded to the 428 Duncan Ave. scene at around 9 p.m. after the family returned home to see fire rising out of the basement, according to Fire Marshall Captain Gerry Maiatico of the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue.

“They noticed smoke and called 911,” Maiatico said. “They did attempt to enter the home to extinguish the fire, but fortunately the fire had ruptured one of the waterlines in the immediate area, which pretty much had the fire extinguished by the time we arrived.”

While the fire was relatively small, he continued, the combined fire, water and smoke damage displaced the family of three adults and two juveniles.

The family’s dog was lost as a result of the flames, Maiatico said.

“Once the fire department arrived, they were able to retrieve the pet from the home,” he added. “The pet was not breathing, and fire and rescue staff did attempt resuscitation of the animal, but it was unsuccessful.”

Red Cross was called and is offering assistance to family members, who went to a neighbors’ home for the night after retrieving salvageable personal items from the upper floors, Maiatico said.

Officials discovered improperly discarded woodstove ashes caused the flames, according to Maiatico.

“They were inside a plastic half gallon bucket in the basement of the home,” he said. “The bucket melted, allowing the heat of the embers to spread to nearby combustible materials.”

Maiatico urged individuals operating fireplaces to make sure to properly discard ashes. They should be placed in a metal bucket with a tight fitting lid, he said, and placed outside of the home, away from combustible materials.

Do not empty the bucket for three to four days, he added, and treat it like a heating appliance — keep it at least 3 feet away from anything that could catch fire.

“Naturally, with colder temperatures coming in the next few days, we always fear heating emergencies, and that’s one of the common causes of fire that we see.”

Front Royal Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Linden Volunteer Fire Department and Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene, along with the Warren County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com