Damage Too Extreme to Determine Cause in Fatal Free Union Fire

By: Chris Stover Email
By: Chris Stover Email

March 24, 2014

Authorities still haven't identified the man killed in an Albemarle County fire on Sunday, and the investigation into what caused it may never be complete.

The rubble was still smoldering on Millington Road in Free Union a day after the fire.

"When units arrived on the scene, the house was 100 percent involved," said Howard Lagomarsino, an assistant chief with Albemarle County Fire Rescue.

The home was a complete loss.

"There's a lot of times that these fires have a long leeway before anyone sees them. And that was the particular case in this one," Lagomarsino said. "The house was well involved before anyone actually saw it and reported the fire."

The rural location of the home and the collection of items on the property added some challenges for fire crews.

"The more rural the area, lots of times the driveways aren't well kept. There's overgrown trees, things like that, that prevent us from getting down the driveway," Lagomarsino said. "It makes it hard to get down the driveway."

The narrow, gravel and dirt driveway had clutter on both sides -- old cars, tires, lumber and other items.

"That's one of the things we try to keep an eye on," Lagomarsino said. "Driveways are governed by certain regulations in the county."

The cause is undetermined because of the extent of the damage, but fire officials said they're leaning toward a heating source with an open flame that got out of control. They say that's been an issue this year in fires across the county.

"One of the major themes is overtaxed heating systems," Lagomarsino said.

With the quick change of temperatures alternating from warm to cold, the danger of malfunctioning heating systems is increased since they're not used consistently.

"We had a very cold winter, so the systems are operating a whole lot longer," Lagomarsino said. "We need to be cognizant of our heating systems and make sure we have them serviced, take a look at them."

Fire officials still don't have a formal identification on the male victim. They're waiting on word from the medical examiner's office.

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