The Loudoun County Fire Marshal’s Office has ruled that Sunday night’s fatal house fire was accidental, resulting from an electrical malfunction in the living room.
The victim has been identified as Robert Steves, 73.
Just before 8:30 p.m., Dec. 10, fire and rescue crews responded to 12259 Taylorstown Road east of Lovettsville for a house fire. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they encountered heavy fire in the structure, forcing them to make an exterior attack before entering the home to search for occupants. Once fire crews made entry to the home Steves was found dead on the first floor.
The home did not have working smoke alarms and investigators were told that the victim had limited mobility. Both likely contributed to his inability to exit the home safely. The Fire Marshall’s Office estimated damages to the home at $300,000.
A military veteran, Steves, with his late wife Paula, moved to the home following his retirement in 1985. The home previously had belonged to his father-in-law.
After the fire, Loudoun Fire-Rescue is highlighting the dangers associated with electrical extension cords. According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters responded to an average of 45,210 home structure fires involving electrical failure or malfunction between 2010 and 2014. Those fires resulted in 420 civilian deaths, 1,370 injuries and $1.4 billion in direct property damage each year. Extension cords account for 57 percent of these fires; the greatest share of home fires involving cords or plugs.
To help reduce your risk, it is recommended that you have all electrical work done by a qualified electrician, including electrical inspections, when buying or remodeling a home.
The following are additional tips residents can follow to help keep their homes safe from electrical fires:
- Ensure extension cords are properly rated for their intended use, indoor or outdoor, and meet or exceed the power needs of the appliance being used.
- Extension cords are for temporary use only. Do not substitute extension cords for permanent wiring; instead have a qualified electrician install additional outlets in your home.
- Check electrical cords to make sure they are not running across doorways or under carpets where damaged cords can go unnoticed.
Loudoun Fire-Rescue also urges residents to develop home escape plans with two ways out and a meeting place outside. When creating the plan, be sure to consider each family member’s abilities to safely exit the home. Practice the plan regularly.
Additionally, ensure that you have working smoke alarms on each level of your home, outside sleeping areas and in every bedroom. The Loudoun County “Put a Finger On It” Smoke Alarm Program offers free smoke alarm assessments to all Loudoun County residents. For more information go to www.loudoun.gov/firemarshal or call 703-737-8600.