1 Killed, 2 Burned in Garage Fire at Fairfax County Residence

By Jacqueline L. Salmon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 27, 2005

A man was killed and two others were injured in an early morning fire yesterday in a detached garage in the Culmore section of Fairfax County.

Neighbors who called 911 to alert authorities to the blaze told them that they had seen several men fleeing the flames with their clothes on fire, said Lt. Raul Castillo, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

Firefighters discovered the dead man after they extinguished the blaze in the two-story structure, which sits behind a single-family home on Charles Street. But they did not find any other victims at the scene, Castillo said.

However, a short time after the fire was out, one man who had fled the structure appeared at a nearby 7-Eleven complaining of severe burns and was transported to Washington Hospital Center's burn unit, Castillo said.

A second injured man, also a victim of the fire, came to the Inova Fairfax Hospital emergency room suffering severe burns. He also was taken to Washington Hospital's burn unit yesterday, Castillo said.

Paul Byers, who lives next to the home where the garage fire occurred, said the residence on Charles Street -- about a half-mile northwest of Baileys Crossroads -- has been home to a rotating group of Latino laborers. As many as seven or eight cars belonging to the residents are often parked outside, he said.

Neighbors believe that someone had recently moved into the garage, Byers said.

In recent years, he said, several other houses in the neighborhood have also become residences for large numbers of laborers.

"There are lots of . . . overbedded places," said Byers, who bought his home in 1991.

Real estate records show the 69-year-old house was sold in 2002 to Capital Realty Investment Group. It is assessed at $312,000.

Castillo said residents of the home told investigators that they did not know the victims. None has been identified.

"It seems they were homeless," Castillo said.

Calls to the home went unanswered yesterday.

A police spokesman said the cause of the fire is unknown. The death is under investigation, he said.

Overcrowded homes rented by laborers have become an increasing concern in some older Fairfax County neighborhoods. As the cost of housing rises, more lower-paid workers are crowding into single-family homes to cut down on living expenses.

After complaints from neighbors about the number of cars the newcomers were parking on the streets, Fairfax County last year passed a law that bars homeowners from paving their front lawns as driveways.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company