Discarded smoking material blamed for big Centreville fire


Fairfax County firefighters say that half of the structure fires they fight have been caused by cigarette butts, or other smoking materials, being carelessly tossed. And fire investigators say that was the case on May 2, when several townhouses burned in Centreville.

A number of the homes were blazing when the first fire units arrived in the 5800 block of Deer Lake Lane in the early afternoon. The fire quickly extended to a second row of homes, behind the first.

The townhouse where the fire started was unoccupied at the time of the fire. A neighbor discovered the fire and called 9-1-1. Fire investigators determined that the blaze started in the rear of that townhouse and was caused by improperly discarded smoking material.

The fire damaged 13 townhouses and displaced 36 people. Damages as a result of the fire are estimated to be $2,273,712.

(Photos courtesy of FCFR Technician Brent Schnupp).

Donations still needed

County agencies and the county’s partners, including various nonprofits and faith-based organizations in the Centreville and Chantilly community, continue to provide services and resources to the residents of the May 2 fires in Centerville.

We are still seeking monetary gifts — cash, check or credit card — through our official partner, Western Fairfax Christian Ministries (WFCM), 4511 Daly Drive, Suite J, Chantilly, VA 20151. This is the best way to ensure that your support goes directly to the residents of the Centreville fires. You can mail or drop off donations to WFCM, as well as donate online at wfcmva.org (click the donate button).

For additional information, call 703-988-9656 or email rkolowe@wfcmva.org.

“The generosity of our community is great. That is apparent in all the offers we have received so far,” said Diana Rothe-Smith, emergency response program manager, Volunteer Fairfax. “The best way to help the residents get exactly what they need as soon as they need it is to give cash to a coordinating community-based organization, in this case it’s Western Fairfax Christian Ministries.”

County officials continue to partner with WFCM to identify residents’ needs and updates will be provided here on the blog on what future types of donations and assistance would be most beneficial.

Charity Fraud Precautions

Unfortunately, a tragic event such as an earthquake, hurricane or a local fire often prompts an outpouring of assistance from well-meaning residents. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminds consumers who receive appeals to donate money in the aftermath of a natural disaster to apply a critical eye and do their due diligence before responding to requests. Past tragedies and natural disasters have prompted individuals with criminal intent to solicit contributions purportedly for a charitable organization or good cause.

Before making a donation of any kind, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, by clicking on links contained within those messages.
  • Verify the legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by researching the BBB Wise Giving Alliance or Guidestar.
  • Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files because the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Make contributions directly to known organizations, rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf, to ensure contributions are received and used for intended purposes.
  • If a charity is soliciting contributions in Virginia, verify its registration with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Charitable and Regulatory Programs (OCRP) at 804-786-1343, or search the OCRP Charitable Organization Database.
  • While a legitimate charity should be registered with OCRP to solicit contributions in Virginia, registration alone does not mean that the organization will be effective in aiding victims of a particular natural disaster.
  • Carefully read the terms and conditions of online giving platforms, such as GoFundMe.
  • Use a credit card to make your donation in case you need to dispute a charge with your credit card company.

For questions and concerns about charitable giving, contact the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 433, Fairfax. A consumer specialist is available to respond to your consumer inquiries Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call 703-222-8435 or email consumer@fairfaxcounty.gov.

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About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at FairfaxNews. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years.  This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns.  He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C. He has won two Ohio State Awards for his reporting and producing and he led coverage that won an Edward R. Murrow Award.