TOMS BROOK – Shenandoah County authorities say someone likely set fire to a home that forced out four people Tuesday.
Fire Marshal David Ferguson said at the scene late Tuesday morning that the fire is under investigation as arson. Authorities had not identified any suspects, but investigators are hoping the public might provide helpful tips, Ferguson said.
The Emergency Communications Center received a call at 2:21 a.m. for a house at 3475 N. Main St., Toms Brook, on fire with flames in the front of the structure, according to information provided by Billy Streett Jr., deputy chief of operations for the Department of Fire and Rescue.
A crew from the Toms Brook Volunteer Fire Department arrived first on the scene at 2:28 a.m., Streett said. Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue and crews from agencies in Woodstock, Strasburg and Middletown also responded to the incident. Deputies with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office helped control traffic control on North Main Street (U.S. 11).
“Obviously, the house has significant smoke and heat damage,” Streett said.
The American Red Cross is helping the displaced occupants relocate, Streett added. A fire official on the scene identified Jason Ferris as an occupant who lived in the house with his wife and children. Shenandoah County online real estate records list Keith Johnson as the property owner.
None of the residents reported injuries, Streett said, adding that a firefighter was checked out at the scene for minor injuries.
Firefighters brought the blaze under control in about an hour, according to Streett. The last crew left at 4:48 a.m. but several firefighters remained on the scene with a vehicle to provide light for investigators, Streett said.
The fire appeared to have started in the front of the house, but the exact point of origin and the cause remain under investigation. Flames spread from the porch area into the front of the house from the first floor to the second, Streett said.
The blaze charred the porch boards and the front wall of the house and melted gutters, drains and adjacent siding. The fire burned some of the many items strewn across the porch including a robot sculpted out of metal cans. The posts holding up the porch roof appeared burned and damaged but remained in place. Streett said he estimated the damage to the structure at $85,000, though that number could change.
Suspected graffiti written in yellow on the side of a detached garage in the rear of the property included an expletive and the misspelling of “confederacy.” The graffiti read “(expletive) the conferacy” and authorities are investigating its connection, if any, to the fire.
The Frederick County Fire Marshal’s Office, the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office continue to assist with the investigation, Streett said. Agencies from the other counties provided canines trained to aid with arson investigations. Ferguson said Frederick County used a canine trained to search for the presence of accelerants that could cause a fire.
Ferguson spent time during the investigation Tuesday walking up and down the street to talk to passersby and residents in case someone witnessed the fire.
“This is the best time to hit 'em up when they come out,” Ferguson said. “Definitely a good time to canvass the area.”
The Department of Fire and Rescue asks anyone with information about the incident to call 540-459-6167.