Family watches as fire ravages home

Posted: January 29, 2013

The Winchester Star

STEPHENSON — A local family is displaced after spending much of the late morning and early afternoon Monday watching their home burn.

The fire, which began just after 11 a.m. at 158 Stephenson Road, was knocked down in about 45 minutes, according to a Frederick County Fire and Rescue media release.

When crews arrived, they found the basement of the home on fire and made both interior and exterior attacks on the blaze.

Meanwhile, the Miller family — all 10 of them — stood outside, some without jackets and shoes, waiting for the thick, billowing smoke to stop.

There were no injuries, but the home was heavily damaged.

“Everything I own is in there,” said an emotional Darlene Miller, who indicated that she would be meeting with her landlord today. “My sons are out here with no pants, no coats, no shoes.”

Miller, 50, said she, along with her husband and daughters, drove up after running some errands — her twin teen sons and young grandchildren had stayed home.

She said one of her sons was in the street and that at first, she wondered what he was doing outside.

“Never in a million years did I think the house was on fire,” she said.

Her husband, Daniel Miller, 61, said he could not believe what was happening.

“All of a sudden you’re homeless, you’ve got nothing,” he said. “In a matter of minutes you’re out in the cold.”

Some of the family members tried to stay warm in their vehicle, some stood in the front yard watching the fire in awe, and others sought out a neighbor’s home to keep the young children warm.

The family members inside the residence when the fire started were alerted to the blaze after noticing smoke coming from the vents on the first floor.

They were able to escape without injury “due to the quick thinking of the oldest boys,” the release states.

“I was upstairs with my niece and younger nephew watching TV,” said Colton Miller, 17. “We just seen smoke coming through the vents downstairs.”

He added that he was “pretty scared” and that he and the other kids were “just fast enough” to make it out of the single-family house without injury.

“That was the first thing that came to mind, was to get the kids out,” Colton said.

It was only a matter of minutes before the home was engulfed and the fire department arrived, he added.

“It’s a small house, flames travel fast,” said the teen.

He was upset as he watched his home burn from inside his parents’ vehicle.

“I have no house now, no clothes,” he said. “My family has no home.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to the media release. However, one of the family members speculated that it may have been started by one of the younger children in the basement.

Fire officials estimated the damage to the home to be about $70,000, and stated in the release that it would be inhabitable until extensive repairs are made.

“Thirty-two years of marriage is in that home,” Darlene Miller said, tears welling up in her eyes.

Her daughter, Kimberly Miller, 24, cried intermittently in the front yard.

“I have a 5-month-old that has nothing now,” she said, devastated.

The family has lived in the house for about 212 years, but has been in the community “forever,” Darlene Miller said.

Lorie Rhoton, program director with the local chapter of the American Red Cross, said Monday that the organization is providing the displaced family with a hotel stay in three rooms for three days and money for food and clothing.

She said the organization will also follow up with the residents to make sure they have what they need.

Fire and rescue units from Clear Brook, Greenwood, Millwood, Round Hill and Gainesboro, as well as Frederick County Battalion 10 Duty Officer and the Fire Marshal’s Office, responded to the call. Berkeley County, W.Va., and the City of Winchester also assisted.

Part of Stephenson Road, near Martinsburg Pike, was shut down while fire and rescue crews worked the blaze.

Donations for the family are being accepted from 3 and 6 p.m. daily at Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 2732 Martinsburg Pike, Stephenson. The church can be reached by calling 540-662-1269.

— Contact Melissa Boughton at mboughton@winchesterstar.com