Fire injures one, causes extensive damage

One person was hospitalized and a house was extensively damaged in a fire at 208 Polk Ave. in Front Royal on Sunday night.

Warren County Fire Chief Richard E. Mabie said in a written statement that firefighters were called to the house at about 10:20 p.m. They arrived to find smoke and flames coming out of the doors and windows.

Mabie said officers from the Front Royal Police Department coaxed one male occupant from the burning building and helped remove a female occupant who had fallen in the living room.

Mabie said three people, including a police officer, were evaluated for smoke inhalation at the scene. A woman was taken to Warren Memorial Hospital for further evaluation.

Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico said in an interview that three people — a mother and two sons — lived in the house. One son lived in the basement. The mother, an 80-year-old woman, resided on the first floor, and the other son lived on the second floor.

Maiatico said the man in the basement escaped, then helped pull his mother to safety with help from a Front Royal police officer.

“I think she attempted to self-rescue but due to the smoke conditions and the conditions in the house, she had stumbled and fallen and was unable to get herself off the floor,” Maiatico said.

No information was available on the woman’s condition Monday.

Police coaxed the man on the second floor from the house to safety outside.

Mabie said the fire, which began in the kitchen, caused $60,000 damage.

Maiatico said an appliance, most likely a coffee pot, had been left in the “on” position amid combustible materials that had been placed close by.

“We believe it was a coffee pot but due to the extent of the damage, we are unable to identify it,” Maiatico said, adding that he was waiting for an insurance company to determine the exact make and model.

Mabie said hoarding hindered the escape of the occupants after they discovered the fire.

“Not only do hoarding behaviors place the occupant at risk in their home, it also places the emergency responders in extreme danger when performing fire suppression operations,” Mabie said in a written statement.

Maiatico said hoarding also contributed to the placement of the materials that ignited around the coffee maker.

“We found the whole house had extreme hoarding type conditions, and we found the same in the kitchen area,” Maiatico said, adding that hoarding also slowed search and rescue operations and efforts to ventilate smoke from the house.

Mabie said the home also lacked working smoke alarms.

“Based on the conditions of the home and the lack of working smoke alarms, this could easily have been a response to a fire incident with a loss of life versus an injury,” Mabie said, adding that hoarding has impeded firefighters in several incidents over the past few years.

Maiatico said the fire department installs free smoke alarms in any home that does not already have them.

“With fire prevention week approaching, now is the time best time to take advantage of this great program,” Maiatico said.

The American Red Cross provided temporary assistance to the home’s occupants.

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