Wind gusts, icy terrain hamper firefighters in battle with blaze
LINDEN — A fire destroyed a house at the High Knob subdivision, displacing both residents and sending one to the University of Virginia Burn Center on Monday afternoon.
At 2:12 p.m., Warren County Fire and Rescue was called for a house fire at 187 Chestnut Trail Road, a road near the top of the mountain.
Units from the Linden Volunteer Fire Department, Front Royal Volunteer Fire Department, Shenandoah Shores Volunteer Fire Department and the North Warren Volunteer Fire Department responded to the scene, where they found a two-story log chalet home fully engulfed in flames.
One female occupant of the house was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital, then to the University of Virginia Burn Center, for burn injuries.
Warren County Fire and Rescue Services Chief Richard Mabie said he believed the victim was to be released Tuesday afternoon.
The fire resulted in a total loss of the house and $500,000 worth of damage. Mabie said he does not believe the A-frame log house was more susceptible to fire than other houses, but once it did catch, the fire spread more rapidly.
“With a regular house with sheet rock walls, you’re contending mostly with the contents inside, but this one here, you’re dealing not only with the contents, but the walls are mostly combustible as well,” Mabie said.
Mabie added, “The fact it was an A-frame means it has a lot of combustible surface, so once the fire gets going really good, it takes possession of the house fairly rapidly.”
Facing 20 to 31 mph winds, the crews fought to contain the flames and two firefighters received eye injuries and were treated at the scene, with one being transported to Warren Memorial Hospital.
Mabie said the high winds made fighting the fire difficult.
“The wind hindered us for a number of reasons,” Mabie said. “One, it spread fire through the house, the smoke conditions made it harder and two of our firefighters received debris to the eyes.”
Mabie said the house’s location, near the top of the mountain, slowed down the units’ response time.
“It’s right at the top of the mountain, so even if the roads were good — and most of them were until you got up to Chestnut Trail — it’s still a long response for a fire truck, if for no other reason than pulling the grades on a heavy truck,” Mabie said.
Due to ice and snow on the road, two trucks got stuck responding to the fire, Mabie said.
“There was an engine that slid [off] the driveway of the house because it was so slick, it couldn’t stop in time and the other engine was on such steep grade on the driveway at the house, we had to get a tow truck to pull him out,” Mabie said.
The closest fire hydrant near the scene was about a half mile away on Alpine Drive, which caused firefighters to send a “tanker task force,” Mabie said. Tankers filled up at the hydrant and transported water to the scene, where crews ran a hose from the intersection of Alpine Drive up Chestnut Trail.
“This was what we call a ‘non-hydrant area,’ meaning it’s remote and we can’t run a line from a hydrant to the house, like we would in town,” Mabie said. “We send a tanker task force whenever there’s a fire outside of town, which is two tankers, and we sent a third one because we knew it was a working fire.”
Six departments out of the county’s nine were eventually dispatched to the scene, causing Warren County Fire and Rescue to ask for Frederick County to provide crews to stand by in case of other fires, Mabie said.
Crews contained the fire by 3:44 p.m. Mabie said containing a fire means it cannot spread to other structures and in some ways, the same snow and ice that hampered the firefighters’ efforts helped to contain the blaze.
“Sometimes you have things that help you, but also hurt you,” Mabie said. “The snow on the ground meant we didn’t have any problems with it spreading like a wild fire like you would have in the spring or the summer.”
Crews battled the blaze until between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., with the last truck from Front Royal leaving the scene at 11 p.m. Mabie said. He said a truck was left behind overnight to keep an eye on flare-ups and to investigate the scene if neighbors called about smoke or the fire spreading.
While the cause of the fire is still unknown, it was called in as a kitchen fire, Mabie said.
“It was dispatched as a kitchen fire, but our investigators haven’t had an opportunity to interview the lone occupant yet, so it’s still under investigation,” Mabie said. “Sometimes information from dispatch may not be the actual cause of the fire per se, but it can narrow it down to a particular room.”
Mabie said the occupants of the house were offered Red Cross assistance, but he could not confirm if they took it or not.
Fire also broke out in the following locations Monday:
• A garage fire at 5002 Panhandle Road near Rivermont in Warren County resulted in $15,000 worth of damage and a male occupant of the residences next to the garage being transported to Warren Memorial hospital. The garage was not attached to the residence. The Warren County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal’s Office determined a wood stove caused the fire. The fire was reported at 12:32 p.m. and Mabie said he believes it started earlier because it was not discovered until it was fully developed.
• Crews from the Fort Valley, Strasburg, Edinburg and Woodstock Rescue squad were dispatched to a small barn-style building at 388 Seven Fountains Road in Fort Valley at 9:32 p.m. Although there were horses on the property, no livestock was involved.
Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org