Investigators seek clues in Midlothian house fire

By Andy Jenks - bio | email

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A fire rips through a Midlothian house, leaving firefighters no choice but to let it burn to the ground.

It was called in just after 10:00 a.m. as a possible brush fire along Depot Drive. It soon became apparent that the flames were shooting from a house about a hundred yards from the current neighborhood.

The house had plenty of time to burn, because nobody lives there. In fact, it's part of an entire cul-de-sac of empty, abandoned, former houses often occupied by partiers, and homeless people.

The flames were shooting out of every window and doorway, and within an hour the house became a smoking pile of rubble.

Fire crews hosed it down with foam so white, it resembled a snowfall. But there was nothing particularly "cool" about what they found a 100-gallon propane tank that was not empty.

"If the container lets go then the propane inside the tank explodes. And when it explodes, it expands  tremendously, and creates a big fireball," said Battalion Chief David Bailey of Chesterfield Fire/EMS.

The safest play was to let the propane burn itself out, and that meant the entire old, empty house would have to go down, as well.

And look what the flames did to the trees. The heat was so intense, that it burned the sides that were  facing the house.

"I could see the smoke billowing over the trees, right over there," said Adam Graves, who saw the fire from his job at ABEC Electronics, about a mile away. Adam drove to the fire and recorded video on his iPhone, though he didn't stay for long.

"[Someone] yelled there was a propane tank there and I saw that there was one on the side of the house, so I decided to leave. I didn't want to be around for that," Graves said.

Nobody was injured, nor was anybody around to witness how the fire started. Neighbors say the abandoned homes are popular party spots. They're also used by the homeless...looking for shelter, and a way to stay warm.

"We have had homeless people folks living in these in the past, but we're not sure if they were doing it  this time," Bailey said.

Fire investigations don't have the cause just yet, so they're not ruling anything out. All they're saying right now, is that it looks "suspicious" in nature.

The fire happened near the Old Buckingham Station apartments, which lost an entire building in a major fire just last month. Authorities believe the two incidents are not related.

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