CHESTERTOWN — A nearly century-old house in the 200-block of Mount Vernon Avenue and most of its contents were destroyed by fire Sunday morning, June 2.
The Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal determined that the fire was accidental and originated in the exterior front porch soffit.
The occupant had been doing home improvements with a heat gun the day before, Deputy State Fire Marshal Brad Childress said.
No one was home when a passerby reported a fire on the roof at 221 Mount Vernon at 5:49 a.m. Sunday.
Volunteer firefighters battled the fire for about two and a half hours before bringing it under control and were on the scene for more than four hours.
Several firefighters were evaluated at the scene for heat exhaustion but were not transported to the hospital, according to a post on the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company’s Facebook page.
Chestertown was the primary responding fire department. About 50 firefighters answered the alarm.
Kent County EMS and Kent-Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad also responded.
Childress said he was notified at 6:15 a.m., and was on the scene about an hour later.
The two-story wood frame home is owned by Tony Hurley of Chestertown, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. The house was built circa 1925.
Heavy fire was showing from the first floor porch and the first and second floors when firefighters arrived, according to the CVFC Facebook page.
The house was built using balloon framing, a very common form of construction from the 1880s to the 1930s.
“Basically, with balloon construction, there is open space in the walls. If there’s a fire in the walls, it goes directly to the attic within minutes,” Childress said in a telephone interview Monday.
The fire had breached the attic prior to firefighters’ arrival, according to the Facebook post.
Firefighters were able to gain access to the attic through a narrow opening, and “were immediately confronted by heat and dense smoke. By working aggressively, they were able to get a handle on the fire in the attic,” according to the CVFC’s Facebook post.
First arriving crews also were tasked with knocking down the fire on the first and second floors.
By mid-afternoon Sunday, windows and doorways on the first floor had been boarded up and fire-damaged furniture and other belongings were neatly grouped together in the yard.