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Fire destroys home overlooking Severn River


Anne Arundel County fire officials say it could be days before they determine what caused a three-alarm blaze that destroyed a Severna Park home early yesterday.

Fire Department spokesman Lt. Russ Davies said investigators expect to spend much of next week sifting through the rubble of the three-story house on Highbank Road that had overlooked the Severn River, surrounded by small trees and neat landscaping.

Yesterday afternoon, not much was left of the home, its charred foundation covered with piles of smoldering wood and blackened debris.

Davies said the owners of the destroyed house, Charles and Jean Converse, were vacationing in New York when the blaze began. They could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Davies and neighbors gave this account:

A neighbor across the street from the Converse house called 911 about 3 a.m. to report that fire and smoke could be seen coming from the first floor. By the time firefighters arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.

Heather Kraus, who lives next door, said the scene outside her cottage was chaotic - ashes swirled in the air and then rained down; the heat from the flames melted siding on her home.

"It was like a volcano. It was scary," she said yesterday while surveying the damage to her home, which was draped in large blue tarpaulins.

Davies said it took more than 60 firefighters about an hour to bring the fire under control. A lack of hydrant service on the street made battling the fire more difficult, he said, noting that five water tankers and a satellite hydrant on nearby Lakeland Road were used.

No one was injured, and no damage estimate has been made, Davies said. The home was recently assessed at more than $1 million by the Maryland State Department of Assessment and Taxation.

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