Fire destroys home on Forest Hill Farm early Tuesday

Fire destroyed a double-wide modular house on a farm in the Forest Hill area early Tuesday morning, Harford County fire officials said.

Nobody was in the home, which burned to the ground, according to Edward Hopkins, chief of the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company, which was the first company responding to the fire in the 200 block of Chestnut Hill Road.

"Fortunately, there were no injuries to residents, firefighters or farm animals," said Hopkins, who explained the house that burned is on the Harkins Hill Farm, a working farm.

The first post by Rich Gardiner on the Harford County Fire and EMS Association media Facebook page stated: "200 block Chestnut Hill Road is the scene of a two alarm well fully involved house fire. Firefighting efforts focused on numerous exposures. No injuries at this time."

Gardiner said via e-mail Tuesday that the first call for the two-alarm fire was received about 3:30 a.m. "Crews worked hard to protect the surrounding structures from any damage and were successful. This is a working farm. [Firefighters] had multiple water sources working also."

According to Hopkins, firefighters arriving from the Bel Air fire company's Forest Hill station, which is not far from the scene, found the fire had fully involved the house and posed a possible threat to adjacent farm buildings, such as tractor sheds and machine shops. "Once they found there was no life risk, they protected the surrounding buildings," he said.

Hopkins estimated it took about 30 minutes to bring the fire under control. In addition to Bel Air, units from the Jarrettsville, Whiteford and Darlington volunteer fire companies also responded, and other companies provided backup at the responding companies stations. Thirty to 40 firefighters were at the scene, the Bel Air chief added.

The fire was discovered by a passerby and the cause remained under investigation as of Tuesday afternoon, according to a notice of investigation from the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office, which said the fire took four hours to finally control.

The home did not have smoke alarms or fire alarms, according to the notice.

Hopkins said he didn't know much about the house, estimating it was about 30 feet by 70 feet in area. He said he was told the occupant was away.

Gardiner said the damage to the dwelling, which he described in a Facebook post as "a double wide [modular home] with addition," and its contents is estimated at around $100,000, which the Fire Marshal's Office later confirmed, saying the damage to the dwelling was $70,000 and $30,000 to contents.

The house was still smoking late Tuesday morning, with the smoke visible for several miles, Hopkins said.

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