Firefighters hurt in Calvert house blaze

By Jenna Johnson
Monday, March 21, 2011; 7:45 AM

As flames swept through a Calvert County "mega-mansion" early Sunday, fire officials sounded evacuation tones and some firefighters jumped from windows to escape the heat. Hours later, two firefighters remained hospitalized, seven others had been treated and released, and the two-story house was a charred heap.

Just before midnight Saturday, the Huntingtown Volunteer Fire Department responded to reports of a chimney fire at 3380 Soper Road, a nearly 9,000-square-foot house on the shore of the Patuxent River.

An owner of the home tried to extinguish the blaze while waiting for firefighters. When they got there, smoke was seeping from the second-story eaves and flames were spreading from the attic, Chief Jonathan Riffe said in a written statement.

Given the remote location of the house, there was not enough water to douse the flames. High winds off the river worsened conditions.

Minutes after firefighters entered the house, visibility became poor and the heat intense. Officials ordered an evacuation, but as firefighters tried to exit, flames shot over the second floor and injured at least nine of them.

"As a result of the unbearable heat, several firefighters took extreme measures such as jumping out of windows and running through walls to evacuate the structure," Riffe wrote.

Officers at the scene summoned every fire department in the county, along with a few from neighboring Charles, St. Mary's, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties.

Two Huntingtown firefighters were flown to Washington Hospital Center with second-degree burns. One firefighter had burns on his hands, neck and face, but he was in stable condition Sunday morning and was expected to be released within a few days, said Eugene Farrell, president of the Huntingtown department.

The other firefighter had internal, respiratory burns caused by inhalation, in addition to burns on his hands, neck and face. The firefighter was conscious and talking Sunday morning, Farrell said, but it's unknown how long he will be hospitalized.

Seven other firefighters from the Huntingtown and Prince Frederick departments were briefly hospitalized for evaluation and treatment for smoke inhalation, but all had been released by Sunday afternoon, according to fire officials.

Firefighters were still at the scene on Sunday afternoon, looking for hot spots and applying more water. Owner David Hazell and his fiancee were also at the scene Sunday, walking through the wreckage.

Deputy state fire marshals concluded that the blaze was accidental, the result of a chimney fire, according to a statement Sunday night from the office of Maryland's state fire marshal.

The blue-and-white Colonial-style house was built about five years ago, according to a 2010 real estate listing. The house was priced at $1.85 million and advertised as having nine bedrooms, 61/2 baths, an au pair or in-law apartment, multiple decks and a pier with four boat lifts.

Photographer James A. Parcell contributed to this report.

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