CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- The fire that damaged 19 apartments at Old Buckingham Station in Chesterfield was sparked when someone put their fireplace ashes in a plastic container and out it on their balcony, according to the Chesterfield Fire Marshals. The November 23 fire displaced 35 people and killed two cats and a dog.
"The investigation also concluded that all fire safety systems and building safety components were in place, properly maintained, and working as designed," the the Chesterfield Fire Marshal said. "It is recommended to place fireplace ashes in a metal container filled with water to completely extinguish prior to disposal. Always keep the container away from combustible materials and any building or structure."
Neighbor: 'You could feel the heat'
One witness noted a “column of smoke” from the massive fire visible from Midlothian Turnpike.
Stephanie Seal said she was shopping nearby when saw the smoke and rushed home.
“They made us start pushing back and back and back,” Seal said. “It was a big mess. And you could feel the heat from a long ways away.”
While some of the displaced lost everything to the flames, some were luckier than others.
"I got to save my dogs and I got to save my snakes,” one man said. “Seventeen ball pythons and two boa constrictors. They’re all safe.”
Red Cross crews and the apartment complex management team assisted the victims.