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Fire leaves family of 10 homeless

May 11, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHANNONDALE, W.Va. -- An extended family of 10 lost all its possessions in a fast-moving fire Monday afternoon that destroyed a home at 179 Conifer Court, according to the owner of the house.

Firefighters from nine companies in West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland responded, said Chief Earl Cogle of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire Co., the lead unit on the scene.

Firefighters were still on the scene at 9 p.m.

Cogle said the fire started in the attic of the house, but fire officials have not determined the cause.

Homeowner Gary Bowlin said he thinks it started in an electric heating unit in the attic of the home he built by himself less than a year ago. He was home when the fire started and reported it shortly after noon.

He said the fire spread quickly once it moved into the roof.

Cogle said two firefighters were inside the house trying to attack the blaze from there when the roof started caving in.

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"We had to do an emergency evacuation to get them out," he said.

There were no injuries.

Bowlin said the house had six bedrooms. The youngest occupant was 16, he said. Family members included Bowlin's sister, her five children, his brother, a nephew and the nephew's girlfriend.

"We lost everything except what we were wearing," he said.

The Red Cross housed the family in a motel Monday night.

Cogle said his fire department would step in to help the family if necessary. He estimated the damage at around $500,000.

The Honda coupe and Chevrolet pickup truck in the garage were damaged.

Bowlin said he expects his insurance to cover the loss. He also said he plans to rebuild on the same site, the top of a long hill on Conifer Court off Mission Road. Several large, elegant homes stand off the road leading up to Bowlin's home.

Firefighters used a huge backhoe Monday evening to knock down the exterior walls to eliminate hazards. Smoke was still coming from sections of what was left of the house.

Cogle said a tower unit from the Purcellville, Va., fire department poured water on the fire from above.

"We must have poured 60,000 gallons of water on the fire," Cogle said.

By nightfall, the only evidence that a home once stood at the site were a dozen new azalea plants lining a stone walkway to what was once the front door.

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