STRASBURG – A fire destroyed a family’s home on Crim Drive in Strasburg on Dec. 22.
No one was injured, although one of the family cats is still missing. Parents Leah and Scott Figgins and their son Noah are currently staying at the Fairfield Inn in Strasburg. Noah was the only one home at the time of the fire.
In an effort to help a family that lost everything overnight, the community has been donating everything from clothes to dog food. Brenda Chapman, 52, who has been recently house-ridden for a number of days due to medical reasons, donated her garage as a donation drop-off point.
“It gave me a purpose to get out of bed,” Chapman said. “I didn’t have any time to think about myself, because I was like, ‘Well, I gotta answer the door. It’s somebody here for the Figgins again.’”
Chapman has been coordinating donation logistics with Miranda Flynn, whose boyfriend, Jeremy Figgins, is an elder son of Leah and Scott Figgins. Flynn has been coming by to drive loads of donations in Chapman’s truck to the Figgins family.
“When she (Flynn) took the first load out of here, I said, ‘I don’t even have room to put my son in there,’” Chapman said. “The back was full, the back seat was full, and the passenger seat was full.”
Chapman warned Flynn not to open one of the truck’s doors, as she was liable to be buried in an avalanche of donated goods.
From Chapman’s sitting room, she was able to see the flames leap from the Figgins’ house Friday night.
“I won’t forget the flames,” she said. “We heard the fire department. So I looked out, and I told Michelle, it can’t be Santa Claus coming again, he just came through on Wednesday. So we looked down and my heart sunk. I said, ‘Oh my God, there’s a house on fire.’”
Todd Bly, 51, and his son were the first to spot the fire. They were driving to Bly’s sister’s house for a Christmas dinner when his son, Jesse Bly, 19, pointed out the flames and said, “Dad, their house is on fire.”
Bly, a volunteer firefighter for the Toms Brook Fire Department, started to equip spare gear he had on hand. The elder Bly ran around to the back of the house to assess the extent of the fire and found it “engulfed in flames.”
Bly saw lights on in the house and he thought he heard a dog barking. He ran back to the front and banged on the front door. Failing to get a response, he noticed the door was unlocked and turned the handle.
“The smoke just bellowed out of there,” Bly said Tuesday. He called to anyone who might have still been inside. “I was hollering, ‘Get out if you’re in there, get out!’”
An animal whizzed by Bly’s legs, and in the cloud of smoke he couldn’t tell if it was a dog or a cat. The smoke kept pouring, and Bly noticed that the windows were beginning to bulge out.
Bly said he could hardly breathe when Noah Figgins ran out of the house. Firefighters started to arrive on the scene, and the Strasburg Fire Department lent Jesse Bly an air tank so he could enter the building and help as well.
“The place just went up in a matter of minutes,” Bly said.
He was the first one at the scene, other than his son and Noah.
“It’s a total loss,” Bly said.
Joe Loving, assistant fire marshal for Shenandoah County, was on the scene as well. He said that while the total cost of the fire was hard to assess, he estimated that the cost of losing the house and its contents came to about $200,000.
Loving said that the fire was likely caused by an improperly disposed-of cigarette on the back deck.
“Anytime there’s almost a total loss of a house like this, it’s hard to 100 percent identify the exact item that first started the fire,” Loving said. “I do know, with confidence, that the area of origin is the back deck, and that single occupant that was at home at the time of the fire had been smoking on the back deck within the hour.”
Loving said that “the occupant believed he put the cigarette out and then it was put into a trash can.”
The safest way to dispose of a cigarette, Loving said, is to put the extinguished butt in a metal can filled with sand that’s kept away from the house or other combustibles.
The donations to the Figgins family have been coming from a variety of sources.
Besides Chapman’s residence at 697 Virginia St. in Strasburg, donors can drop off items at the Strasburg Fire Department or the Handy Mart in Strasburg (where Noah Figgins is an employee.)
A local Mary Kay beauty consultant, Pam Gimple, pledged to donate all of her profits between Dec. 26 and Dec. 31 to the Figgins family.
Taffy Mabe, 64, stopped by Chapman’s house Tuesday with a car full of donations from the Grace Fellowship Church of God in Front Royal: potatoes, bread, milk, ground meat, dog food, canned foods and armfuls of other groceries.
Chapman said that her own children, who are in their 30s, have donated as well.
“I couldn’t imagine not having none of my stuff. Just to have that thought — because that night when I was standing, I was like, ‘Oh my God, if that was me, I don’t know what I would do,’” Mabe said. “Because it makes you think about yourself. And then you put yourself in their shoes, ‘Well, I’m going to help them, because if that was me, I would want help.’”