13-year-old reports house fire, saves the day

A Shenandoah County firefighter/EMT looks out of the second story window of the home. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG – A 13-year-old Strasburg resident who was quick on his feet may have prevented a house fire from causing more damage than it did Friday.

David Van Anden was mowing the lawn around 4:40 p.m. Friday when he noticed smoke coming from his neighbor’s house at 370 Little Sorrel Road.

Van Anden quickly notified homeowner Donald Wells, who was moving boxes out of the house, of the fire and then reported it to 911. All of the residents, including the pet dog Nyla, were unharmed by the fire.

While waiting for rescue units to arrive, Wells and David’s father, Jeff, were able to extinguish much of the fire with a garden hose.

Wells said he believed the fire was caused by his wife putting a cigarette into a flower pot on the back porch. He said flames apparently leaped from the pot and onto the house’s backside.

Shenandoah County Fire Chief Tim Williams said the fire cause was considerable smoke damage and busted out a window. Siding will have to be replaced. He added that the only flames inside of the house appeared to be in attic installation. To ensure that the attic did not catch fire, he said firefighters had to use hooks to pull down a portion of the ceiling drywall.

Shenandoah County building official Mark Griffey was not able to estimate exact costs of damages, but he said they would easily be over $10,000. Griffey added that the house was ruled uninhabitable due to charred roof trusses, the smell of smoke, and a missing window.

The damages, however, could have been much worse. Shenandoah County Fire Capt. Jayme Mantz said if the fire had been reported five to 10 minutes later, “it would have been a different story” and there would have been “much more damage.”

“It could have been fully engulfed if David didn’t see it,” Williams said of Van Anden.