NEW: Fire Destroys Home, Six Sent To Hospital

Posted: May 5, 2014

Daily News-Record

Firefighters responded to a home on Bethany Court south of Harrisonburg early Monday morning. The fire was caused by a discarded cigarette. (Photo by Pete DeLea)

An early morning fire sent six people to the hospital and destroyed a home just outside Harrisonburg.

Firefighters say a discarded cigarette outside of the home started the blaze — a problem that has plagued area firefighters for the last month.

Emergency crews have responded to roughly a half-dozen fires started by improperly disposed of cigarettes, including one that destroyed an apartment building in Chestnut Ridge in Harrisonburg.

Eight Driven Out

“It’s an example of what can happen,” said Wes Shifflett, assistant fire marshal with Rockingham County Fire and Rescue, referring to this morning's blaze that gutted half of a duplex.

Firefighters responded to the blaze at 3163 Bethany Court in a subdivision off Covenant Court, behind the Department of Motor Vehicles, at about 1:30 a.m.

Sandra Sureez, who lives down the street, said she was awoken to sirens.

Sureez said she knows the family well, who like her, are from the Dominican Republic.

“It was really sad when I saw the fire and seeing the lady cry,” said Sureez.

Eight people were inside the home when the fire started. Six went by ambulance to Sentara RMH Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries.

Firefighters were on the scene for about five hours. Shifflett said a fire wall prevented serious damage to the adjoining home.

In addition to Rockingham County Fire and Rescue, firefighters from Harrisonburg, Hose Company No. 4, Bridgewater and Clover Hill responded to the fire.

They are still determining the financial loss.

Other Cigarette-Related Fires

Today’s fire was among several similar fires in the last month.

On April 23, Harrisonburg firefighters battled a blaze at Copper Beech Circle in the Copper Beech Townhomes. The fire started in a mulch bed and caught the vinyl siding on fire. Firefighters say a discarded cigarette in a mulch bed is likely to blame.

On the same day, firefighters responded to a blaze at O'Neill's Grill at 221 University Blvd. also started by a cigarette thrown into a mulch bed. The fire spread to the siding and extended into the restaurant's crawl space, causing about $5,000 damage.

A third fire — also likely caused when someone tossed a cigarette into mulch — caused extensive damage and displaced several residents on April 10 at the Chestnut Ridge apartment complex.

Heavy winds that day caused the blaze to spread quickly to the vinyl siding and up the building, damaging six apartments. The fire caused about $250,000 in damage and left more than 20 people homeless.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or

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