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Fire extensively damages Riverside home Wednesday morning

BY KRISHANA DAVIS and DAVID ANDERSON, Aegis staff

6:08 PM EST, January 8, 2014

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Six people were displaced by a fire that caused heavy damage to their Riverside home Wednesday morning.

It was the latest four catastrophic fires in the county since Saturday amid snow followed by record low temperatures.

Preliminary investigation by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office has concluded Wednesday morning's fire was caused by an overloaded/malfunctioning electrical powerstrip.

About 45 firefighters from the Abingdon, Aberdeen, Bel Air, Joppa-Magnolia, Level and Susquehanna Hose fire companies responded to the 1300 block of Marigold Court.

Abingdon Fire Chief Monti Arrington said first responders were alerted at 9:26 a.m., and the first fire truck was en route within two minutes, followed by Arrington in his chief’s vehicle.

Despite the quick response, the chief said about 50 percent of the two-story single-family house, including the garage and the rooms above it, was already in flames “with smoke throughout the structure” when firefighters arrived.

“It was well advanced even before we got the call,” Arrington said of the fire.

The county Hazmat Team was deployed to the scene, Rich Gardiner, spokesman for the Harford Fire & EMS Association, said.

“There's a hazmat five vehicle here, which is a large vehicle than people can get inside to provide warmth,” Gardiner said. “Firefighters are rotating in and out to keep warm while battling the fire.”

Around 9:50 p.m. firefighters were working in a “defensive mode using large elevated water flow,” Gardiner posted on the Harford County Fire and EMS Facebook page.

Gardiner said the cold weather was a major factor in battling the blaze. Temperatures were in the teens when the fire was reported but gradually rose into the low 20s.

As the firefighters pulled back to a defensive posture, Chief Arrington said, they sprayed the flames with water from an Abingdon truck and a 105-foot Joppa-Magnolia tower truck.

They then advanced on the blaze once flames were brought under control.

The fire, which fully involved the home, according to emergency radio transmissions, was contained around 10:30 a.m.

Arrington said four adults and two children were displaced; there were no injuries.

The frozen rivulets of water that ran off from the hoses could be seen along the cul-de-sac of Marigold Court in the aftermath of the fire.

The Hazmat Team's decontamination vehicle provideD space for firefighters to warm up. Some gathered around small heaters like they were at campfires, warming their hands. Steam billowed off their frigid gloves as they took them off the heaters.

Arrington said the hazmat vehicle is being dispatched to all “working fires” in the county, meaning fire scenes where flames are showing, and “any time the crews are going to be operating” during the current stretch of frigid weather.

“It was definitely useful today,” he said.

Firefighters were also treated to hot and cold drinks, and snacks, provided by the Abingdon Fire Company Auxiliary.

Other firefighters moved through the house, soaking hot spots with their hoses. They also tossed objects that were burned beyond recognition through exterior walls that had burned away, leaving just the wooden wall studs.

Investigators with the Fire Marshal's Office also made their way around the structure.

In a notice of investigation issued Wednesday evening, the Fire Marshal's Office said damage to the home is estimated at $250,000; damage to the contents is estimated at $50,000.

The Fire Marshal's Office said the owner and three other adults and two children were living in the house.

When the fire broke out, the occupants of the home tried to extinguish the fire with fire extinguishers as well as a garden hose to no avail, according to the notice of investigation.

The family is being assisted by the Red Cross.

In addition to Wednesday’s fire, 20 people were displaced after a fire at an Aberdeen motel early Saturday morning; a Joppa family was displaced from their home after a fire on Saturday and a Bel Air family was displaced from their home after a fire Tuesday night.

Check back with www.exploreharford.com for updates.