Blaze destroys Lake home

Contributed by Judy Fish

A Lake Monticello home was destroyed by a fire on Friday that was first reported as a porch fire, but “rapidly grew with flames as high as the roof” after the fire spread to the home’s propane tank according to Lake Monticello Fire Chief Richie Constantino.

The chief said that at approximately 5:13 a.m. on April 28, the Lake Monticello Fire Department, Palmyra and Fork Union fire companies were dispatched to a reported porch fire on Begum Road in Lake Monticello. While crews were enroute to the fire, Fluvanna County Emergency Dispatch alerted them that the fire was spreading rapidly, he said.

 Upon arrival at the scene, the chief said he “observed a single-family residence to be fully involved with an intense and fast-moving fire, with fire throughout the structure.”  Barbara Kittel, the homeowner, who made the 911 call, had initially tried to fight the porch fire with a garden hose “to no avail,” he said.

 “The severe fire was being fed by an above-ground propane gas tank which was emitting flames approximately 25 feet in the air and spreading across the entire house and roof from a compromised safety valve,” the chief said.

 “The fire spread to the 200-pound propane tank, which caused the safety relief valve to release the built-up pressurized gas from within, causing the boiling, expanding gas to ignite under extreme pressure spreading to the structure,” Constantino said.

 He said firefighters were able to control the blaze in about 20 minutes and completely extinguished the fire in about an hour by conducting “an aggressive fire attack with multiple hose lines with one being dedicated to cooling the propane tank.”  He said that the heat of the fire was so intense, it began to melt the vinyl siding on the next-door neighbor’s home, but the fire did not spread to the interior of the neighbor’s home. 

“The cause of the fire is still pending as I am still investigating it,” Chief Constantino said, adding, “but I’m comfortable stating it was accidental. The house and belongings were a total loss because of the intensity of the propane fire. I would estimate at least $300,000 in damage, if not more.” 

No one was injured in the fire.

Kittel,  who lost everything she owned in the fire, said she was awakened by her smoke alarms just after 5 a.m. “I woke up to what I thought was my phone ringing and realized it was my smoke detectors,” she said.  “This has been devastating but people have been wonderful.”

Bonnie Mackin from Goosehead Insurance is processing her insurance claim and is collecting gift cards for her and suggested in a Facebook post that gift cards from Food Lion and Walmart “are very handy for short term needs.”

“Insurance will restore her losses, but I am guessing she’ll need food and clothes” in the short term, Mackin said, adding that she is in contact with the property owner and will deliver donations to her.

“Please drop (donations) off at my office at 106 Crofton Pl, Ste 9, Palmyra. Feel free to call me at (434) 589-1447 if you have any questions,” said Mackin.

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