FRONT ROYAL – A woman was found dead in her apartment Wednesday after a fire raged through Building 47 at the Royal Hills Apartments on Royal Lane.
The woman, who was not identified, was 51 years old and the sole occupant of the apartment where the fire originated, according to a news release from Warren County Fire and Rescue Services.
“The cause of the fire and death of the occupant remains under investigation,” the release states.
Due to significant damage to the apartment building, 10 families were displaced by the fire that started shortly before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The fire caused an estimated $500,000 in property damage and contents loss, according to the release.
Officials would provide few additional details about the fire late Wednesday afternoon.
“The investigation is ongoing between criminal investigations (of the Front Royal Police Department) and the Warren County Fire Marshal’s office,” Capt. Crystal Cline said.
At one point during the fire, a firefighter fell through the floor and a “firefighter mayday” went out, according to the news release. Firefighters rescued the firefighter and transported him to Warren Memorial Hospital where he was treated for minor burn injuries and later returned to work.
A second firefighter sustained a minor injury and was treated for a sprained ankle.
Edward Thompson, who lives in Building 47, arrived home from work and said that he saw a flicker of flames coming from a neighbor’s apartment.
“I called 911 and they said they were already on their way. Adrenaline kicked in, and I ran in to get my family out,” Thompson said.
His wife Amber, who is six months pregnant, was sleeping. He woke her and got Riley, their 3-year-old daughter. They all ran out of the apartment with the clothes on their back.
“By that time, the apartment was filling up with smoke,” Amber Thompson said.
Edward Thompson said he pounded on the door of his next-door neighbor’s apartment where he had seen the flames.
“There was no answer,” he said. “The door was hot.”
He continued knocking on doors alerting people.
As the family waited along with their neighbors in the apartment manager’s office, they said they did not know if their neighbor was still in the apartment.
Michicko Johnson said she called 911 at 7:22 a.m. when she smelled smoke.
“I went outside and saw the smoke. I started knocking on doors telling people to get out,” Johnson said. Her feet were clad in beige house slippers.
Larry Settle, the former fire chief of Shenandoah Shores, also helped alert residents to the blaze.
He heard the fire engine and said he rushed to the apartments to help get people out. He then helped firefighters get the hoses to the fire.
Apartment complex manager Kim Smith declined to comment about the blaze.
The American Red Cross, Shenandoah Valley team, arrived to interview the tenants and help them find temporary housing.
The fire was investigated by the Warren County Fire Marshal’s Office. The Front Royal Police Criminal Investigations Division, Frederick County Fire Marshal’s Office Canine Division and the Office of the Medical Examiner assisted on the incident scene.
Authorities are asking that anyone with information regarding this incident contact Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico at 540-636-3830 or Front Royal Police Detective David Fogle at 540-636-2208.
Correction: This story has been updated. A firefighter fell through the floor, and not the roof.