3 are safe after fire guts home

Posted: February 2, 2013

The Winchester Star

Firefighters leave the 19rh-century home destroyed by fire Friday morning at 869 Green Spring Road in Frederick County. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Firefighters extinguish a burning mattress after fire destroyed the home at 869 Green Spring Road in Frederick County early on Friday morning. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
Gainesboro Fire Chief Don Jackson throws debris from the second floor of the home destroyed by fire Friday morning.

WINCHESTER — A local family is homeless after escaping a fire on Green Spring Road early Friday.

“I was sick to my stomach,” Andrew Smelser said as he recalled watching the blaze in the bitter cold weather. “Everything we had is pretty much gone.”

Icicles still lined the home — at 869 Green Spring Road, off Cedar Grove Road in Frederick County — as the wind howled and fanned the flames.

Firefighters worked diligently in the 23-degree weather (with a wind chill of 14) after arriving to find flames visible from the right side of the second floor of the home.

Chester Lauck, chief of the Round Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, said the smoke was so thick from the fire that firefighters couldn’t see across the road.

He said the crews were able to knock down the blaze in 10 to 15 minutes — but worked a couple more hours to extinguish it.

According to a news release from the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Department, the 19th-century home’s electrical system became overloaded, causing the wiring within the wall to overheat.

“The wind was blowing like crazy; it contributed to how bad the fire was,” Smelser said.

Smelser, 33 — who lived in the home with his twin brother Kevin and Kevin’s girlfriend Shayna Lacy, 34 — said he was up and ready for work, shortly before 7 a.m., and his sibling was just waking when they noticed the fire.

“In a matter of, it seemed five minutes, the house was filled with smoke — it was that fast,” Andrew Smelser said. “We had to get out because the smoke was so thick, we couldn’t breathe.”

With no time to grab any possession, the three occupants escaped and stood outside watching the house burn until firefighters arrived.

Smelser said watching the blaze was “hard, really hard,” but even more so for his brother, who had lived in the house for almost five years.

“He’s got a lot of memories there; he loved that house,” he said.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the three residents with lodging and money for food and clothes for three days.

After that, Smelser said, they plan to stay at their father’s house until they can find a new place to live — but still will need everything from clothes to furniture.

In the meantime, he is trying to stay positive.

“We’ll bounce back, we’re still here,” he said. “You can replace things, but you can’t replace us.”

Fire and rescue crews from Round Hill, Clear Brook, South Berkeley, Reynolds Store and Gainesboro responded to the fire.

The county Fire Marshal’s Office also was on the scene.

Green Spring Road was closed to Frog Hollow Road while crews fought the blaze.

Donations for the family will be accepted from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in Woodbine Assembly of God at 626 Rest Church Road in Clear Brook. The church can be called at 540-662-2471.

Gift cards are the best donation, but Smelser said any form of contribution will help. Both brothers require paints with a 40-inch waist and a 32-inch inseam and either XXL- or XXXL-sized shirts. One wears size 13 shoes and the other size 11. Lacy wears size 14 pants and extra-large shirts. She wears size 812 shoes.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com