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Posted at 8:13 PM ET, 09/25/2010

Va. fire apparently from smoking materials

By Terri Rupar

A fire that left five houses uninhabitable in Northern Virginia apparently resulted from "improper disposal of smoking materials," authorities said Saturday.

The fire on the outskirts of Manassas broke out Thursday afternoon on Tillett Loop, and caused from $2.2 million to $2.5 million in damage, said Francis J. Teevan, chief fire marshal for the Manassas fire department.

Three houses were destroyed, two damaged too badly to be inhabited and three others also damaged, he said.

Although nobody saw the fire start, investigators found the place where it apparently began, Teevan said.

He said a resident of one of the houses often disposed of cigarettes in potted plant containers on his deck.

Incompletely extinguished cigarettes may smolder in mulch, leaves or potting soil until a breeze causes ignition, Teevan said.

Teevan said flame apparently spread from a plant container to the siding of the house. In the view of investigators, he said, the fire " was a combination of cigarette, breeze and vinyl siding."

--Martin Weil

By Terri Rupar  | September 25, 2010; 8:13 PM ET
 
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