Bentonville fire destroys home
BENTONVILLE — A fire destroyed a large, single-family house near Bentonville on Monday evening, resulting in between $500,000 to $600,000 in damage.
At “a quarter till 7 p.m.” Christie Brown, 40, was driving up to her house at 1255 Pilgrims Way while her fiancé, Victor Attwood Jr., 28, was fixing dinner. She said she noticed the left side of her porch was on fire and rushed into the house to alert Attwood and her son, Hunter Brown, 15.
“I ran into the front door and there was smoke just pouring out of it,” she said. “After we got out of the house and got the pets out, it just went up in flames. It was totally unbelievable.”
Brown’s daughter, Laney Brown, 13, was at track practice when the fire started.
Hunter Brown called 911 and crews from the Southern Warren Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene at 6:52 p.m., finding the house fully involved. Chief Richard Mabie was in a meeting at that firehouse when the call came in.
Mabie said within two minutes of arriving at the scene, there was a structural collapse. Mabie said Brown, who is an auctioneer by trade, had a lot antiques in the house, which added fuel to the fire.
“The rest of a house is nothing but fuel, with woods and plastics and so forth,” he said. “There was a load of antiques in the house I guess she collected over the years, so all that is extra fuel … once this thing gets going, with the wind helping, it doesn’t take long to get fully involved like that.”
While it is standard protocol to send tankers to a fire scene, “whether it’s a report of smoke or a fire alarm,” crews were able to use a pond a half a mile from the house as a water source, Mabie said.
Mabie said while crews were unable to save two vehicles, a sports utility vehicle and a pickup truck parked near the house, they were able to stop the fire from spreading to a nearby propane tank.
“When we first got there, with it being fully involved, we would normally have concentrated on the unburned stuff, like the pickup truck, but we needed to keep the fire away from the propane tank,” he said. “It started to let pressure off, which was good, so we focused on that area with the water.”
The combination of fuel in the house and the wind resulted in intense heat, Mabie said. The wind kicked up embers, which resulted in burns to the face and hands of two firefighters.
“Every time the structure shifts and collapses, it puts [out] a spray of embers and debris,” Mabie said. “Both of them had first- or second-degrees burns on their face, so we believe that’s what caused their injuries.”
A third firefighter twisted his knee when he tripped over a hose, Mabie said. All the injured firefighters were transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and were treated and released. Brown was asked if she wanted to go to the for smoke inhalation, but declined treatment.
By 7:43 p.m., the fire was “contained.” Mabie said the fire was hard to contain because it started to catch the nearby brush on fire.
“The wind was blowing the fire and spreading it, but luckily, it was pushing towards a creek and very wet ground,” Mabie said. “At that point in time, I called a couple of brush trucks and the division of forestry because I didn’t know where it was going from there.”
Mabie said crews were also assisted by nearby citizens, who raked the forest beds to keep the brush fire from spreading. He said the fire wasn’t “under control” for a while, but crews were able to contain it so it wouldn’t spread anywhere else.
Brown said while she is thankful everybody made it out uninjured, two of her dogs and some of her outdoor cats are still missing.
“When fire happens and people are running around and the engines have their sirens going, pets get scared and will run off,” Mabie said. “They usually come back later when things settle down.”
Along with the Southern Warren Volunteer Fire Department, crews from Front Royal, Rivermont, Linden, Shenandoah Shores, Shenandoah Farms, Conservations and Research Fire Brigade, Forthsmouth, Chester Gap and North Warren Fire Department responded to the scene.
The Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire and has not released a cause.
Brown and Attwood are fundraisers for the Southern Warren Volunteer Fire Department. She and her family are living with relatives in Luray and collections for her benefit are being made at In Town Beauty, at 6 Luray Shopping Center in Luray and at Hair Station at 328 South Royal Ave. in Front Royal.
Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org