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Cause of Spotsylvania fire under investigation

BY LIANA BAYNE

Two town houses were destroyed and two others were damaged in an early-morning fire Wednesday in the Lee’s Hill South area of Spotsylvania County.

Neighbors and residents said they noticed the fire around 6:30 a.m. Kathy Smith, spokeswoman for Spotsylvania County, said a 911 call was received at 6:33 a.m., and fire crews arrived at 6:44 a.m.

The fire was concentrated in the 10000 block at the end of Four Iron Court near Monticello Street. There are four town houses at the end of the street, with two homes per building.

No one was injured. The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Firefighters were still working to ease the smoke and heat in the houses three hours after they responded to the blaze.

The home that sustained the most damage, 10103 Four Iron Court, belonged to Aurelia Luton, a 74-year-old retiree and widow. She had lived there since 1997.

“The smoke detector went off and I could see fire outside my back window,” Luton said. “The flames were clear up over the roof.”

Luton said she ran to one of her neighbors’ houses to wake them up.

“I came out here with nothing but what I had on,” she said, gesturing to her ground-length pink, terrycloth robe. “One of my neighbors lent me a pair of shoes.”

Neighbor Omar Muhammad helped get others on Four Iron Court out of their homes.

Muhammad, who lives on nearby Mount Vernon Street, said he was riding his bike for exercise when he noticed the smoke, which was visible for miles.

“It was intense,” he said. “I’d never seen anything like it.”

He said he saw Luton standing in the street in front of her house. The flames were closing in on a car parked nearby.

Muhammad warned Luton to move away from the car and ran to adjacent houses, knocking on doors and telling people to leave. Then the car exploded in what Muhammad described as a mushroom of smoke.

“It looked like somebody had dropped an atom bomb,” he said. “The whole garage shook.”

Luton said she lost everything, including sentimental items such as family photographs. According to county records, Luton’s home had an assessed value of $203,000. and the is valued at $65,000.

Luton’s neighbors Marty and Elizabeth Marcum also sustained a lot of damage to the house where they lived with their three children—Christian, Jessie and Coby, ages 9, 7 and 4.

Marty Marcum said a sheriff’s deputy told him to report the house to his insurance company as being a total loss. The town house that Marcum was renting at 10101 Four Iron Court had an assessed value of $259,000and while the land it sat on had an assessed value of $75,000.

Marcum, who owned his own heating and air-conditioning business until he sold it in May, said his family had lived in the house since November 2010.

“Aurelia came knocking on our door,” Marcum said. He said he got his children out of bed, and they went to a neighbor’s house.

Marcum went to the upstairs level of his house to turn the air conditioner off, and noticed that the entire top floor of his house was filled with black smoke. He said his smoke detectors didn’t go off to warn his family of the danger.

Marcum said his family plans to stay with his mother-in-law, who lives in Fredericksburg.

“We have renter’s insurance, and all this can be replaced,” he said. “We were going to either buy a house or move in a year, so I guess we’ll move.”

Muhammad said he waited with the residents of the burning houses until fire and rescue units arrived.

“When I see people who need help, I help,” Muhammad said. “I started off having a bad day, and I ended up getting people out of there.”

On Wednesday afternoon, Marty Marcum’s mother-in-law said Marty and Elizabeth Marcum went back to their home to try to retrieve some possessions, such as Elizabeth’s purse. But she wasn’t sure if the couple could get inside because of the damage.

During the fire, about 10 homes along the street had to be evacuated because of the smoke. Fire officials also had to shut off electrical and gas services.

Spotsylvania authorities said that the families in those homes were allowed to return to their homes later.

The American Red Cross has offered help to Luton and the Marcum family, as well as the residents of the two adjacent town houses. building, which houses 10105 and 10107 Four Iron Court. two sets of two houses

Phyllis McBride, manager of the Rappahannock Area Chapter of the Red Cross, said one family did not need any help, two needed help replacing food until their insurance adjusters would be able to respond, and one needed food, clothing and overnight lodging.

“The idea is to help with food, clothing and shelter to make sure they have what they need to start as quickly as they can,” McBride said.

Smith said Spotsylvania fire officials were still on the scene Wednesday afternoon trying to determine the origin of the blaze.

“This process may be lengthy due to the size of the structure, the amount of smoldering debris, and the hillside topography of the lot,” she wrote in an email.

Liana Bayne: 540/374-5444

lbayne@freelancestar.com

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