Fairfax County firefighters rescued five residents of the Hanover Hills apartments early yesterday morning after an appliance fire filled hallways and rooms with dense, billowing smoke.

Three unidentified dwellers of the four-story, brick apartment house at 5762 Backlick Road escaped injury when firefighters gave them oxygen maskes and helped them from their third floor rooms to safety, according to Fire and Rescue officials Stephanie Hoover.

"They (third floor residents) had stayed in their rooms with their doors shut to keep the smoke out," said Lt. William Walter of engine company 29. "There was dense, dark smoke issuing into the hallway.It could have been very serious."

A fourth victim was rescued from a second floor apartment in the pre-dawn hours with a ladder, Hoover said, and a woman identified as Diane Frazier was plucked to safety by firemen "as she clung to a second story drain spout outside her apartment window."

"She had tried to come out of the apartment and into the hallway, but the smoke was too thick," Walter said. "Other residents outside talked her into crawling out onto the drainspout."

Firefighters from Annandale, Greater Springfield, Franconia, and Edsal Road responded to the $45,000 blaze that left one apartment gutted and caused smoke damage to several others, Hoover said.

There were no injuries, Hoover said, adding that the fire started in apartment 101, owned by Lance DeBoer, presumably when a deep fat fryer with oil in it had not been turned off.

James Bassette, a third floor resident, said, "I was asleep at the time. Smoke was everywhere. Luckily, there seemed to be very few people at home when the fire started. The firefighters wouldn't let us back inside until after dawn."