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Unattended candle caused fire near Jamaica

by Larry S. Chowning

Fire gutted the waterfront home of Deborah and Gary Watkins at 674 Bayport Road at Jamaica in Middlesex County on Thursday, November 13, said the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office. 

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photo by Larry S. Chowning
Volunteers from all four county fire departments and Tappahannock-Essex VFD responded to the 11 a.m. blaze. The Central Middlesex Volunteer Rescue Squad, the American Red Cross and the Middlesex Animal Control Officer also were at the scene.

Firemen said the blaze appeared to have started in the basement of the home. When the first firemen arrived, there was smoke coming from the eaves of the roof. All doors were shut in an effort to keep the fire from spreading, but flames eventually broke through the windows and doors.

“When we arrived, the fire had extended up the stairs to the first floor,” said Water View fire chief George Longest. “There was heavy smoke and heat damage to the first and second floor. Fire damage to the basement was extensive, causing part of the first floor to collapse in the kitchen area.

“With the use of cross ventilation in the basement and cutting an area out of the first floor, firemen were able to contain and extinguish the fire,” said Longest.

Water supply was set up at the Bayport Boy Scout Camp using a 30,000-gallon tank with a fire pump that supplies water to the sprinkler system of the camp’s mess hall. 

Tanker trucks from Water View, Hartfield, Deltaville and Essex worked the fire. “This made our capabilities to contain the fire much easier,” Longest said.

Mrs. Watkins, her son and daughter, 3-year-old granddaughter and their dog got out of the residence safely.

“The homeowner stated she had lit a candle in the basement to get rid of an odor,” said Longest. “She said she heard the smoke detector alarm and went down to the basement. There she saw the fire go from a small area to a larger one, and she left the residence and called 911.

“Unattended candles cause a large number of structure fires,” added Longest. 

Red Cross was contacted to provide assistance to the family, which also had a young grandson living there but was in elementary school at the time of the fire. 

Middlesex Animal Control housed the family dog at the county dog pound at Cooks Corner until the family could get “their bearings,” said Longest.

All fire units were cleared from the scene at 1:42 p.m.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and Virginia State Police fire investigators were requested to help determine the cause of the fire.

posted 11.19.2008

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