Fire Destroys Sterling Home, Kills Dog

A Cascades family of five lost their home and their dog Sunday in a blaze that started in a wall surrounding a fireplace, county fire officials said.

Kevin and Andrea Hamer and their three children were away from their Trailwood Place home when a neighbor spotted the fire around 7:25 p.m. and called 911, said Mary Maguire, spokeswoman for Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Services. The family dog, a 3-year-old Labrador-beagle mix named George, died in the fire.

"It looks like a mound of rubble, but no one was hurt except the dog, and I'm thankful for that," said Kevin Hamer, 35. "My gratitude goes out to the firefighters. If they hadn't done that nice a job the whole street could have burned."

Maguire said the blaze started when heat from a fire that had been burning in the fireplace earlier in the day heated and eventually ignited wooden studs in the surrounding wall. Sterling Volunteer Fire Department Chief Rob Weiderhold said the fire likely burned inside the walls for as long as four hours before being detected.

Hamer, who works for the U.S. Treasury Department, said that he and his wife had gone out for the evening and that the children were visiting relatives outside the state. They arrived home moments ahead of fire crews. Hamer said he went through the garage and into the house calling the dog but was forced out when burning debris fell on his neck.

Fire officials estimate that the fire caused about $300,000 in damage to the Hamers' house. Both houses next door--each separated from the Hamers' house by about 12 feet--were damaged by heat and water but did not catch fire.

Two firefighters were treated at Loudoun Hospital Center for minor injuries, and one neighbor was treated at the scene for an asthma attack caused by the heavy smoke, Maguire said.

On Monday, crews salvaged some books, clothing, a football and a few other belongings from the rubble. Hamer said that although most of the family's belongings were destroyed, firefighters managed to salvage some baby pictures that had been hanging on a wall near the front of the house.

"You lose your whole life, but they did everything they could to save the memories," Hamer said.

Alabama Man Held in Purcellville Holdup

An Alabama man has been arrested and charged with robbing a Purcellville bank earlier this month, authorities said.

Randall Keith Midkiff, of Satsuma, Ala., was arrested Friday at a bus station in the District by FBI agents, according to Deputy Ed Pifer, Loudoun County sheriff's spokesman. Midkiff, 18, is being held without bond at the D.C. Department of Corrections.

Purcellville police said the robber walked into the First Union Bank at 611 E. Main St. about 2:30 p.m. Dec. 2, ordered employees and customers to put their hands up and demanded money from a teller. The teller handed over an undisclosed amount of cash, and the man, who never displayed a weapon, fled the bank.

Pifer said Midkiff is a suspect in several robberies nationwide but could not provide details. He said he did not know how federal agents learned Midkiff was at the bus station.

Police said the First Union holdup was the first bank robbery in Purcellville in nearly 30 years.

Construction Worker Dies in Fall From House

A 47-year-old construction worker was killed Monday when he fell from the second floor of an unfinished house where he was working near Middleburg, sheriff's deputies said.

Charles Dean Hebert, of Fauquier County, was working at the lot in the 23000 block of Parsons Road with several other men when the accident occurred about 11:15 a.m., sheriff's spokesman Deputy Ed Pifer said.

Pifer said Hebert backed up and fell through a space in the uncompleted second floor into the basement. He was pronounced dead at the scene.