UPDATE: Additional Information Released in Keswick Fatal Fire

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UPDATE 1/23/2013: Albemarle fire officials have declared the cause of the fatal fire in Keswick on January 18 as undetermined. Fire officials narrowed down the area of the fire’s origin to a baseboard heater in the residence, but because of the devastating nature of the fire, there is no evidence to determine as specific cause.  

Albemarle County Press Release

Albemarle County Fire Rescue officials are providing the following additional information and clarifications regarding a fatal fire that occurred in the early morning hours of Saturday, January 18, 2014.

The victims have been identified as Sayeda Nadia Ghaffer, age 34; Ammar Sheikh, age 7; and Aiza Hussain, age 2.

As was originally explained in a press release that was issued Saturday morning, crews were dispatched to 870 Carriage Trail Place at approximately 1:30 a.m. for a structure fire. The first arriving unit was from the Monticello Station and arrived about 12 minutes after the initial call. A unit from the East Rivanna Station, which is located closer to the fire site, was responding to another call at the time for emergency medical service. That unit never actually reached the scene of the medical emergency but rather was quickly rerouted to the home on Carriage Trail Place.

Personnel with that unit returned to the East Rivanna Station to switch vehicles and then responded immediately to the fire location, arriving one minute after the initial crew from the Monticello Station was on scene.

While there has been some discussion about the legal standard known as "abandonment" that requires medical personnel to stay with a patient until the patient is turned over to another agency, that circumstance did not exist in this situation since the East Rivanna unit never arrived on the scene of the EMS call but immediately reprioritized and diverted to the fire scene.

All indications from the scene cause fire officials to conclude that by the time the 911 call was made and units were beginning to respond, the fire was already too advanced to save the upstairs occupants, (all of whom perished in the structure itself), despite the heroic and professional response of all responding units and those on the scene.

"The fact that we had two units active on the scene within our established response time for rural areas is no consolation for the very tragic fact that three lives were lost in this fire," said Albemarle Fire Rescue Chief Dan Eggleston. "While we believe that the loss of life in this fire was very immediate, we recognize and appreciate the heroic rescue attempts made before our personnel arrived and by our personnel once they were on scene. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families at this very difficult time."

As is always the case in a fatality situation, the names of the fire victims were withheld until all appropriate contacts were made and the medical examiners procedures were complete. Also as is standard in the case of a devastating fire of this nature, a careful and thorough examination of the fire scene is necessary before a cause can be determined which officials anticipate will take several days at least.

Although exact circumstances of this fire are still under investigation, Eggleston stressed the importance of ensuring working smoke detectors and developing a home evacuation plan as part of normal practice for all residents.

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