Accidental Fireplace House Fire

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

News Release 12-01
Date:  January 3, 2012

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department units responded to a house fire, Saturday, December 31, 2011, at approximately 1:30 a.m., near George Mason University. The single-family home is located at 4505 Shirley Gate Road.

Firefighters encountered heavy smoke and fire coming from the garage, roof of the garage, rear, and rapidly spreading into the attic along the roof line of the two-story home upon arrival. Firefighters conducted an aggressive interior fire attack at the lower level of the home to thwart the fire in the attic, attempting to protect additional property and contents. Simultaneously, additional crews fought the fire from the exterior and in the garage area. Firefighters protected the majority of living space; however, much of the home received some smoke and water damage. Firefighters were challenged by a partial collapse of the garage roof housing two vehicles; stretching hose lines approximately 100 yards, and negotiating and positioning apparatus the along the narrow driveway leading to the home. It took firefighters approximately 20 minutes to bring the fire under control. The family of four escaped unharmed. Three adults and a youth have been displaced. There were no injuries. Red Cross support was declined.

Damage is estimated at $100,000.

According to fire investigators, the fire was accidental. A broken seam in the chimney of the zero-clearance fireplace caused the fire.

Fireplace Safety Tips

  • Ensure that your chimney is cleaned and inspected by a licensed professional once a year.
  • A spark arrestor across the top of a chimney will prevent sparks from igniting your roof.
  • Use the proper fuel (seasoned hardwood, pellets, and gas/propane) for your type of system. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or other flammable liquids to start a fire.
  • Fireplaces should have a sturdy screen across the front to prevent embers from flying or logs from rolling out.
  • When clearing ashes from the fireplace, be sure to put them into a metal container with a lid—never into a cardboard box or paper bag.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions carefully.  Many “non-masonry” fireplace/chimney units have limitations on the amount of heat they can safely withstand.

For more information, call Daniel L. Schmidt or Captain I Randal Bittinger,
Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, 703-246-3801 and TTY: 711.
Duty PIO (Weekends/After-hours): 703-877-3702
Fairfax County is committed to nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in all county programs,
services and activities. Reasonable accommodations will be provided upon request.
4100 Chain Bridge Road
Fairfax, VA 22030

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