McLean man­sion is razed by flames

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY KATHER­INE SHAVER — Clarence Wil­liams and Martin Weil kather­ine.shaver@wash­post.com

A Fair­fax County fire­fighter gath­ers a hose in the 800 block of Turkey Run Road where a res­i­dence owned by the Em­bassy of the United Arab Emirates was de­stroyed in a fire Satur­day morn­ing. A plume of black smoke over the North­ern Vir­ginia sub­urb could be seen from parts of the Dis­trict and Mary­land. No one was in­jured, and first re­spon­ders res­cued two dogs.

A fire gut­ted a McLean man­sion Satur­day morn­ing, send­ing a plume of black smoke over the North­ern Vir­ginia sub­urb that was seen from parts of the Dis­trict and Mary­land.

Fair­fax County fire of­fi­cials said that six peo­ple es­caped and fire­fight­ers res­cued two dogs from the stately tan-brick home in the 800 block of Turkey Run Road. No one was in­jured.

The home is owned by the Em­bassy of the United Arab Emirates, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records and two men who lived there.

Al­most three hours af­ter ar­riv­ing at the blaze, fire­fight­ers on lad­der trucks were still spray­ing down what had be­come a brick shell, as steam and smoke wafted out the top. The five-bed­room, six-bath­room house, as­sessed in 2016 at $2.7 mil­lion, ap­peared de­stroyed.

Two men who lived in the home said they thought the fire started in the kitchen.

Paul Ruwe, a deputy chief with Fair­fax County Fire and Res­cue, said in­ves­ti­ga­tors had not de­ter­mined a cause. They couldn’t en- the re­mains of the home un­til the fire was fully ex­tin­guished, he said, and the free-stand­ing brick walls and two chim­neys also posed a haz­ard.

“With­out walls and a roof and a floor,” Ruwe said, “it could be­come a sta­bil­ity prob­lem with a dan­ger of col­lapse.”

Ruwe said firetrucks ar­rived at the neigh­bor­hood off Ge­orge­town Pike about eight min­utes af­ter re­ceiv­ing a 911 call at 7:58 a.m. A man in the home and a neigh­bor who did not want to be named said it seemed to take at least 30 min­utes for fire­fight­ers to spray any wa­ter on the house. The clos­est hy­drant, which is the only one in the neigh­bor­hood, is up a hill and around a bend, a five-minute walk away.

“In the be­gin­ning, it was a small fire,” said Mo­hammed Al­man­souri, 42, who added that he was stay­ing in the home on a visit from the United Arab Emirates.

In fact, he said, the fire seemed so con­tained that he and oth­ers who had got­ten out had time to move sev­eral cars to the other side of the drive­way to leave room for firetrucks to get in.

Al­though the fire­fight­ers ar- rived quickly, he said, it took time for them to hook up the hoses to the far-off hy­drant.

“They were all wait­ing for a wa­ter sup­ply,” Al­man­souri said. “It was a small fire in the be­gin­ning, but af­ter time, the fire went up, up, up” un­til flames were shoot­ing out the roof.

Al­man­souri said five men were liv­ing in the home, in ad­di­tion to three em­ploy­ees — a chef, a driver and a clean­ing per­son — who also worked and lived there. He said one of the men works for the em­bassy but is not the am­bas­sador.

Ruwe, the deputy fire chief, said fire­fight­ers don’t log into the com­puter sys­tem the time they be­gin spray­ing wa­ter. How­ever, he said, a 30-minute de­lay due to a dis­tant hy­drant “is way out­side the realm of pos­si­bil­ity.”

He said it’s not un­usual for some ar­eas of the county to have “not as ro­bust a hy­drant sys­tem.” As fire­fight­ers usu­ally do when hy­drants are far away, he said, one en­gine headed straight to the house while oth­ers set up a re­lay op­er­a­tion of trucks and hoses stretch­ing from the hy­drant to the house. Such a sys­tem, which util­ter izes pumps on the trucks, keeps up the wa­ter vol­ume and main­tains pres­sure for the hoses, he said.

While the re­lay sys­tem was be­ing set up, he said, the first fire­fight­ers who ar­rived at the house sprayed wa­ter from an en­gine onto out­side propane tanks to pre­vent them from ex­plod­ing. They also were able to stave off flames to al­low a crew to get into the garage to save the two dogs, whom Al­man­souri iden­ti­fied as a Rot­tweiler named Ri­hanna and a Great Dane puppy called Scooby.

A far-off hy­drant “adds a com­plex­ity to the event, but it doesn’t pre­vent us from do­ing our job,” Ruwe said.

Other res­i­dents on the street said they have shared with county of­fi­cials their con­cerns about a lack of hy­drants in a neigh­bor­hood full of mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar homes. Many of the homes are on wells be­cause wa­ter pipes haven’t been ex­tended to them.

“Our fire­fight­ers are the most pro­fes­sional in the world,” said neigh­bor Becky Kil­bourne, “but they can’t do any­thing with­out wa­ter.”

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

JOHN MCDON­NELL/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Fair­fax County fire­fight­ers re­spond to the Satur­day morn­ing blaze at a $2.7 mil­lion res­i­dence in the 800 block of Turkey Run Road.

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