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Herndon house fire displaces eight people, cat rescued

(Updated at 1:40 p.m. on 11/18/2022) Eight people in the Town of Herndon were forced out of their home last week by a fire that caused nearly $300,000 in damages.

According to the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, the fire started early in the afternoon last Wednesday (Nov. 9) in the garage of a two-story house in the 800 block of Winterhaven Place.

There were four people at the home at the time of the fire, according to the fire department. FCFRD said the fire was discovered when one person went to the garage to reset a computer router that was not working.

“[That occupant] closed the door between garage and home, and alerted all occupants,” FCFRD said. “All safely evacuated the house. Smoke alarms were present but did not activate due to the location of the fire.”

One of the homeowners told FFXnow that the characterization of the fire in the news release is inaccurate, stating that she and her son-in-law were the only people home at the time and no one went to the garage to check a router.

“I actually was getting ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment, and it was my son-in-law that smelled smoke,” she said. “We were nowhere near the garage. We didn’t know there was a fire. We had no idea until a neighbor was banging on our door.”

An FCFRD spokesperson says the information released this morning came directly from its fire investigator’s official report, noting that the department uses “occupants” to refer to anyone present at the time of a fire, not just residents.

She said the investigator confirmed that there were four occupants at the house: two residents and two workers.

The homeowner confirmed that a cat was rescued by units from the Fairfax County, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Loudoun County fire and rescue departments, which collectively responded around 1:33 p.m.

An investigation found that the fire was accidental and “electrical in nature.” By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze had extended to the house’s attic.

Red Cross assistance was accepted and no injuries were reported. The fire department estimates that property damages totaled approximately $298,000.

“The house was a complete loss,” the homeowner said, disputing the reported estimate. She said her insurance company is currently conducting a separate investigation.

The FCFRD spokesperson said the estimate was developed by an algorithm that the county uses and can’t be changed.

“Our sympathies are with the family as they wade through the devastating experience of losing their home,” FCFRD Director of Public Information Ashley Hildebrandt said. “Estimates for property loss values following a fire are determined based on an algorithm recognized by Fairfax County government. The amount estimated is not indicative of the estimates determined by an insurance company.”

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