March 19, 2007
The flames broke out early Sunday morning at a duplex along Lewis Mountain Road.
Fire fighters arrived on scene around 4a.m. and found three people in the house, two of them unconscious. We now know the identity of the victims, Mark Allen, who lives there, was listed in fair condition and has been release from UVa Medical Center. The other two vicitims, Ashley Jeray Mauter and Richard Brett Quarterman, remain in critical condition.
“I couldn't imagine being in a fire like that, it's just so thick and awful and the smoke was just very, very thick,” said neighbor, Jamie Ballenger.
Ballenger said she was awaken Sunday morning after her cat became restless from the scene outside their house.
“Ambulances and fire trucks were going back and forth. You know they had the streets blocked off,” said Ballenger.
Crews were frantically working to get everyone out of the house and put the fire out.
“Actually I thought my place was on fire, because the smell of smoke was so strong in my house,” added Ballenger.
The cause is still unknown. Right now, investigators are trying to rule out obvious causes.
“What they're trying to do is determine where in the building the fire started,” said Britt Grimm, Deputy Chief of Charlottesville fire department.
With the information they'll find clues.
“Once they kind of narrow that area down they'll take samples which they'll send off to the lab which test for the possibility of any accelerants or anything unusual that should or shouldn't be there,” said Grimm.
Also under investigation are the smoke detectors. Officials said they were in the house, but do not believe they went off.
“Smoke detectors are really critical,” added Grimm.
Right now they think it was the neighbor's detector that sounded.
“People think that when there's a fire in your house that you going to wake up and that you'll know that, but what happens is there are so many gases and stuff that are being given off by a fire as its burning or smoldering when it starts up and a lot of those tend to make you sleep deeper,” said Grimm.
We're told Mark Allen is a graduate of the University of Virginia. However, they do not believe the other two victims have ties to UVa.