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W.Va. home destroyed by fire

October 07, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A fast-moving fire destroyed a two-story house at 416 W. Liberty St. Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters battling the 1:40 p.m. blaze feared a flashover, which occurs when gases in the fire get so hot they explode, said Ed Smith, chief of Independent Fire Co.

The fire was drawing in air so hard that it began pulling smoke back into the house, which is a sign that a flashover is about to occur, Smith said.

Fire officials blew airhorns at that point, signaling for the six to eight firefighters inside to evacuate the building, Smith said.

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Firefighters then used a "master stream," which is capable of spraying 500 gallons of water per minute, to fight the fire, Smith said. The water was directed into the house from a fire truck outside, Smith said.

That reduced the fire to the point where firefighters could go back inside to fight the blaze, Smith said.

It took more than two hours to douse the fire, said Smith.

About 45 firefighters from Jefferson County, Berkeley County, Clarke County, Va., and Frederick County, Md., battled the blaze, Smith said. The fire might have been caused by a light on a counter in a kitchen, Smith said. The light could have come in contact with something, or there could have been an electrical short, Smith said.

Devin Hosby, who lives in the house with his grandparents and mother, said he had returned home when he noticed the fire in a kitchen.

"When I opened the door, all this smoke hit me," Hosby said.

Hosby yelled for his grandmother, Elsie Hosby, who was in an upstairs bedroom.

Devin Hosby led his grandmother out of the bedroom. Hosby said there was not much smoke upstairs, but smoke was accumulating downstairs when he and his grandmother came downstairs.

Hosby said he could see the open front door through the smoke and left the house with his grandmother.

"I've been there all my life, so I know every nook and cranny," Hosby, 21, said.

Fire spread to the eaves - the lower edge of the roof- of a house next door, Smith said.

Damage to the house and contents where the Hosby family lived was estimated at $125,000, Smith said. Damage to the house next door totaled about $25,000, Smith said.

In addition to his grandmother, Hosby said he lived in the house with his grandfather, John Hosby, and his mother, Gigi Hosby.

Smith said the house was an old structure and was constructed with logs. John and Elsie Hosby had lived in the house since 1972, said their son, Frank Hosby.

The fire gave Independent Fire Co. firefighters the chance to use a new breathing system.

Using a transmitter that a fire department member can monitor from a firetruck outside, the system allows fire officials to monitor the amount of air individual firefighters have while they are inside a burning building, Smith said.

If an air pack is running low on oxygen, the person operating the transmitter in the fire truck can send an alarm to that firefighter, Smith said.

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