Blaze leaves couple, four children homeless

A mother and four children escaped a fire Tuesday afternoon that destroyed a house at 1248 Cronin Drive, said Chief C. Hadden Culp, a spokesman for Prince William County Fire and Rescue.

“That’s what makes a tragic fire like this fortunate,” Culp said. “You can rebuild houses.”

Fifteen trucks from Prince William and Fairfax counties responded to the fire at about 2:30 p.m. and found flames shooting out of the top of the house.

The property is owned by Jannie Benitez and her husband, who was at work and whose first name was unavailable, Culp said.

Initially, firefighters believed the blaze, which gutted much of the home and destroyed a shed in the back yard, was caused by a child, Culp said.

Edna Puckett, who lives across the street, was outside tending to her garden when she smelled smoke shortly after 2 p.m.

“I ran across the street and made sure [Benitez] and her children were out of the house,” Puckett said. “Then I called [the fire department]. The kids came over to my yard and their mother went back inside to get something.

“It wasn’t long after that when the house burned through,” Puckett continued. “These are older homes, so it burned pretty quick.”

Puckett called the fire department at 2:21 p.m., and five minutes later Prince William Engine No. 2 arrived, Culp said.

Capt. Curtis Brodie of the Prince William County fire department was part of an extensive crew fighting the fast-burning blaze.

“I was working on the rear of the building and there was a little problem,” Brodie said. “We came across some gasoline outside of the shed.”

The fire department contained the fire before it got to the gas, Brodie said.

As of Tuesday evening the amount of damage was unknown, Culp said.

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