Fire leaves Fallston house 'not habitable,' investigators say

A fire Sunday night in Fallston caused an estimated $5,000 damage to a home that fire investigators said was “borderline inhabitable” to begin with.

The fire was reported by a neighbor around 10:15 p.m. in the 2600 block of Hess Road, according to a notice of investigation from the Office of the State Fire Marshal.

It took about 50 firefighters from Fallston and other nearby volunteer fire companies about 30 minutes to control the blaze in the two-story, single family home, according to the notice of investigation.

Once investigators were inside, “we did find evidence of hoarding conditions in the house,” Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire said Monday.

“The basement was inaccessible, and copious amounts of items were strewn throughout the house,” Alkire said.

Such conditions make it difficult to fight the fire, he said, as far as getting into the house and following up on the investigation. It can also add to the fuel load and fire load.

“It’s a danger not only to the occupants but to the firefighter themselves. With the amount of equipment and gear they have, it makes it difficult to maneuver within the house,” Alkire said.

The home is owned by Anthony Harman and occupied by his cousin, Gary Harman, according to the notice of investigation.

When the fire was initially reported, it was unclear whether people were still inside. Firefighters searched the house and determined no one was inside when the fire started and all occupants were accounted for, according to the notice. They are being assisted by the Red Cross, according to investigators.

The fire, which started in and around the kitchen and extended into the attic, was contained to the rear of house.

A home with the type of balloon frame construction found in this one, Alkire said, once fire gets into the walls, it quickly spreads to the roof line.

“Firefighters did and excellent job of containing the fire to that room, and once they were able to make access to the attic, to put a pretty good stop to it,” Alkire said.

Fire investigators said the home was “borderline inhabitable” before the fire, he said.

“Along with this damage, while it will be up to the county inspections department to condemn the house, it is the opinion of investigators it is not habitable after the fire,” Alkire said.

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