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Fire Rips Through Five Herndon Townhouses | Pets

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Fire Rips Through Five Herndon Townhouses

HERNDON, Va. (WUSA) -- Nobody noticed the flames until it was too late. Until the fire was too strong to stop from burning five townhouses in. One after the other. Stunned neighbors watched in disbelief.

"It was horrible. It was horrific. The flames were shooting so high I thought the trees were on fire," said neighbor Delbra Anderson who was jolted out of her trace to think of knocking on the doors of people who were in the fire's path. It raged around 11:00 in the 13,000 block of Shea Place in Herndon.

"A whole bunch of smoke and fire. I went around behind the house and saw the shed on fire and I came around the front and flame were shooting off the roof," said Shawn Austin, another neighbor who started knocking on doors to get people out.

One man had just bought his townhouse and moved in four days ago. He is a bartender and was sleeping at 11:00 a.m. as the fire spread toward his home. Neighbors kept banging on his door until he woke up and got out. His home was severely damaged.

Neighbors told firefighters where pets live and they rescued a parrot and several dogs and cats, although one women's cats was missing. Late in the afternoon, the woman was able to get into to her heavily burned and water-logged home and find the big grey cat named Ananda. She had hidden under a bed and escaped with only some singed whiskers.

Kathy Hale says she left for work at 10:45 a.m. and everything was find. By 11, flames were shooting from the roofs. She returned after receiving a call that her home was on fire, but was told her dogs were safe. "I'm so thankful. Everything else is property. I consider my dogs my kids," Hale said.

The fire started in the rear of or behind a home, possibly in a shed where witnesses say a lot of debris such as old mattresses had been piled.
The wind blew the flames 20 feet to another row of townhouses where is melted the vinyl siding.

"We hate that stuff," said one firefighter about vinyl siding. "It's made of petroleum, gasoline, which just goes up fast and helps spread the fire."

Fairfax County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Reilly said "The vinyl siding is highly flammable. The flames jumped over the firewall up under the soffit, spreading to the other homes vinyl siding in the roof areas.

Written by Peggy Fox
9NEWS NOW & wusa9.com