MOUNT HERMON — Barbara Easom was sitting in her house watching television early Wednesday morning when she heard a duo of loud booms outside, each separated by a few minutes.
“It was like firecrackers going off,” she said.
When she and husband Barry Easom looked outside, they saw their next-door neighbor’s house ablaze, so he called 911 at about 12:45 a.m. Wednesday.
Five volunteer fire departments — Mount Hermon, Blairs, Mount Cross, Tunstall and Dry Fork — needed two hours to completely extinguish the blaze, which all but destroyed a home along the 4200 block of Franklin Turnpike, said Pittsylvania County Fire Marshal Jeff Connor.
The occupants, who Connor would not name, are currently staying with relatives. Connor said the residents had just arrived at their home when they smelled smoke and discovered the fire. Efforts to contact them for this story were not successful.
About half a dozen fire trucks and tankers were used at the scene, said Ray Earp, chief of Mount Hermon Volunteer Fire and Rescue.
Temperatures in the low 20s created difficulties for first responders fighting the fire, Earp said. Water dripping from tanker trucks and hoses — as well as leftover water from Tuesday’s rain — froze on the ground.
“[The cold] just makes it a lot tougher for the guys that are actually fighting fire,” he said.
Ice formed on the volunteers’ equipment and firefighter clothes, which is already heavy.
As for the home, much of the roof was burned into nothing while other sections caved in and twisted into strange angles.
Piles of burned rubble now surround a charred car that lost all color, tires and windows to the flames. The homes’s sun-room, where Connor said the fire originated, is almost completely exposed and full of rubble.
By late Wednesday morning, with the smell of smoke still lingering in the air, Connor and a fellow emergency management worker dug through the pile of charred remains in search of the blaze’s cause. They had yet to determine a cause by the afternoon.
The fire had also spread through the yard, browning the grass up to within a few feet of the parking lot of the neighboring Apple Market Shell gas station, but the blaze did not present any extra danger, said Chris Slemp, Pittsylvania County public safety director.
“That fire was far enough away from pumps that it wouldn’t impact the pumps whatsoever,” he said.
The Easoms had to leave their home for a while as the fire raged due to the potential danger and because firefighters cut electricity to nearby houses.
Ayers reports for the Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 791-7981.