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Firefighters battle blaze in Forest Hill

No one was injured, but a number of pets died in a Forest Hill house fire Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters were alerted to the fire in the 400 block of Forest Valley Drive shortly after 1:30 p.m. The blaze caused about $270,000 in damage to the structure and contents in the one-story, ranch-style house, according to a notice of investigation issued by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. A dog, four cats, birds and fish perished in the fire.

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The cause of the fire was accidental, the result of an overloaded power strip, according to Oliver Alkire, a senior deputy state fire marshal and public information officer for the fire marshal's office.

The house is owned by Douglas and Mary Jenkins. Neither was home at the time of the fire. Alkire said Mary Jenkins was at work, and Douglas Jenkins had left the house briefly to help a neighbor a few blocks away; the fire started while he was out.

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He rushed back to the house when another neighbor called him about the fire.

A distraught Jenkins could be seen outside the house as firefighters from the Bel Air, Fallston and Jarrettsville volunteer fire companies worked to bring the fire under control. Friends and neighbors consoled him.

Debbie Howley, who was among the neighbors consoling Jenkins, called him "a lovely gentleman" and said he regularly helps his neighbors.

"You feel bad, this is a very nice person, for something this tragic to happen to someone so nice," she said.

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Howley said they also see each other while walking their dogs.

"We tease [each other] about how we love and take care of our animals," she said.

It took about 30 minutes for the firefighters to bring the fire under control, according to the fire marshal's report.

Smoke could be seen billowing from the front of the house, and flames were visible through the front window.

Firefighters wearing breathing masks worked inside the house while their comrades pulled up hoses and sprayed water on the fire outside.

Harford County Sheriff's deputies blocked traffic in the 400 block as neighbors stood across the street and watched the scene.

Rich Gardiner, spokesman for the Harford County Volunteer Fire & EMS Association and a member of the Bel Air Fire Company, said at the scene no people were injured

Carol MacCubbin, who lives a few doors down from the Jenkins, said she looked out her door when she heard the sirens and saw thick smoke, which was coming toward her house.

"I shut all the windows, turned on the air [conditioning]," she said.

MacCubbin said she called Jenkins to tell him about the fire.

"It's devastating for him," she said.

Alkire said Harford County disaster assistance staff and friends and family are assisting the Jenkinses

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