13 Students Homeless After Wertland Street Fire - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

13 Students Homeless After Wertland Street Fire

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Update: According to the Charlottesville Fire Department, the official cause of Monday morning's fire on Wertland St. is undetermined. Read the full press release at the bottom of the article.

Charlottesville's fire marshal says the cause of the Wertland Street blaze is still under investigation.

The fire started on the porch of a home early Monday morning.  A garbage man on the street outside was able to get the attention of one student who was sleeping inside. His quick thinking gave those inside enough time to get out.

"This whole porch was just engulfed.  It was unbelievable," said next-door neighbor Daniel Schwartz.

It's even more unbelievable how the 13 people, all University of Virginia students, inside were able to get out uninjured. 

"I looked outside and the garbage man was out there waving and a yelling and throwing rocks at my window," said Ian Van Der Hoven, a resident of the home.

Van Der Hoven was on the second floor of the house when the fire broke out about 5 a.m. He's thankful a complete stranger took action.

"I'm glad someone was out there.  Yeah, it would have been a lot worse off.  It would have been harder to get people out," said Van Der Hoven. There were functional smoke detectors installed inside the house, but because the blaze started outside the students were not alerted as soon as the fire started.

The fire charred the front porch of the house as well as several rooms inside. Seven cars parked in front of the house were also damaged, including Schwartz's SUV.

"It's just the mirrors are a little damaged.  A little melted on the sides so I have to get it fixed," Schwartz said.

The line of cars was also a challenge for first responders because three of them actually caught fire. "It made it tough to get to the front of the building.  They had to extinguish that fire as they were making their way toward the front of the building," said Chief Richard Jones of the Charlottesville Fire Department.

The now homeless group of students removed their belongings from their rooms Monday, as contractors boarded up the house with ply board.

"You weren't expecting it and kind of in the rush you just try to get everything together, try to get everyone out," said Van Der Hoven.

The Dean of Students office is working with those who lived in the house.   The students are staying at the Red Roof Inn until they find a new place to live.

Charlottesville Fire Department
Press Release

At this time, the fire cause is listed as ‘undetermined'. This is based on the investigative findings that no source of ignition could be identified at the area of the fire's origin. Additional investigation may continue and if there is a change I will update you accordingly.

The smoke detectors (ionization) but not sure on the timing to alert the occupants as initially the main body of the fire was on the exterior of the structure. The alertness of a passerby prompted notification to 911 and a UVA Police Officer entered though the back of the structure to alert and assisted occupants exit.

The UVA Dean of Students was also key in assisting with housing of the UVA students impacted by the fire.

Charles L. Werner, EFO/CFO, MIFireE

Fire Chief

Charlottesville Fire Department

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