Units from the Bethany Beach, Millville and Rehoboth Beach fire departments responded Friday, March 18, to a house fire in the 600 block of Second Street in Bethany Beach, near Evans Avenue.
The three-story home was under construction when the ground-floor garage area caught fire around 12:49 p.m. on Friday. Construction worker Algandro Garsla of Pennsylvania received first and second degree burns to his hands and face, according to Deputy State Fire Marshall, Randall W. Lee.
Investigators determined the fire was caused by combustibles too close to a heat source, Lee said. Workers on the roof at the time the fire was spotted said they were simply told, “Get off the roof,” which they immediately did.
According to Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company Assistant Chief Justin Norman, the first unit from Bethany arrived at the location within minutes of the emergency call. They discovered the whole underside of the home fully involved in the fire.
As they entered the home’s living areas, he said, firefighters found smoke spreading throughout. Norman said the building’s staircases, pipe chases and ducts fed both smoke and fire to the upper stories.
The fire companies’ tactics were toward a quick attack on the fire, he noted. That may have spread additional smoke throughout the house as the fire was doused. But the quick work on the flames – and the fire company’s quick response – may have proven vital in limiting the final scope of the destruction.
“Quick takedown prevented serious damage to the rest of the structure,” Norman said. “There was some scorching,” he noted, describing the periphery of the fire area. “It was getting ready to spread.”
As the first responding teams used chainsaws, axes and hoses to open and douse the western garage-area wall, where the fire was apparently centered, dozens of firefighters waited outside with their axes and breathing gear at the ready, in case additional work was needed.
The home’s exterior was essentially finished, with siding and windows in place. The Bethany company used one of its ladder trucks to gain additional access through an upper-story window. According to the roof construction workers, the interior of the home was still undergoing basic work, with only two temporary power lines having been run.
That electrical work, they said, will likely now have to be redone, due to the damage from the fire. But Norman said the structure had escaped severe damage from the episode – only smoke damage throughout and fire damage limited to the ground floor and periphery.
Lee said damages had been approximated at $25,000.
The injury and potential for a serious blaze in the residential neighborhood drew nearly a half-dozen trucks and additional support vehicles from the surrounding area. During the duration of the event, crews from the Dagsboro and Frankford fire companies also responded to cover the Millville station, while Ocean City firefighters took over in Bethany Beach.