Space heater likely caused fire

Family safe

By Christina Dimeo, editor

A space heater likely started a blaze that consumed the Fork Union home of Jane and William Ford.

Just before noon Thursday (Jan. 17) a report of a house fire came into dispatch, said Fluvanna Fire Chief Mike Brent.

“We knew we had a pretty good one going,” said Brent. “The first fire company pulled up and saw heavy fire showing at the right-hand portion in the front.”

“It’s never good when you come up to somebody’s house and you see flames coming out of three sides,” said firefighter Mike Sheridan. “I was the first on scene. It was already fully involved when I got there.”

The only person home at 5288 James Madison Highway was William Ford, and he made it out safe and unharmed, said Brent. “Mr. Ford was in the house sleeping. I don’t know what woke him up, but something got him up and he got out.”

By then the fire had attracted attention from the neighborhood. One neighbor, Col. Al Williamson, was eating lunch in the dining hall of Fork Union Military Academy. “I saw the smoke billowing above the trees,” he said.

The south side of the house had a two-room addition, said Lake Monticello Fire Chief Richie Constantino, and the slate roof over that area of the house had collapsed. “It’s a problem in Fluvanna County,” said Brent. “Slate roofs are extremely heavy, and they collapse more quickly than standard roofing.”

The roaring fire “was starting to extend to the main house via the attic spaces,” said Constantino. “We were able to cut it off from getting into the living portion; contain it to the attic of the residence. It was a very aggressive interior fire attack that [firefighters] did. And consequently we were able to preserve a lot of the possessions of the owner. We were very fortunate.”

Firefighters extinguished the blaze in 20 to 25 minutes, said Brent. “Then we began overhaul operations and investigation, and it appears that the fire started in or around a space heater.”

“It’s still under investigation but it’s been ruled accidental,” said Constantino. “It was electrical.”

The Red Cross arrived within 30 minutes and began caring for the Fords, said Brent. The organization will give them a place to stay and “vital things like toothpaste, toothbrushes – to get them going till they can get settled a little bit.”

“The Fords have been a long-time family in the county,” said Sheridan. “Ms. Ford taught me. She was my son Luke’s favorite teacher in high school. They got out and everyone was fine, but it’s almost a complete loss.”

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