A 65-year-old man died in a fire at his townhouse in Gainesville. Neighbors say he was an important part of their community. As Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reports, this is the first deadly fire in Prince William County since 2011.
Fire officials say one person died after being pulled from a townhouse fire in Gainesville, Va., Thursday morning.
Firefighters went to a home in the 8400 block of Tackhouse Loop just before 5 a.m. after a neighbor noticed smoke and called 911. At the scene, firefighters found the house filled with smoke and heard the smoke detector sounding.
But 65-year-old Stephen Frankenberg died, according to Prince William County police. Kids in the neighborhood called him Mr. Steve.
"I think we're all in shock a little bit," neighbor Ashley Movius said. "Some tears were shed."
Neighbors said Frankenberg suffered leg injuries years ago that made it difficult for him walk, News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported. He used a cane and sometimes a wheelchair.
"It's just devastating, really," neighbor Jen Mills said. "At first you're confused and you wonder what happened and if everybody's OK. When you hear someone's not, it's hard. We're a close neighborhood and no matter how well you knew somebody or not, it hurts."
Frankenberg’s dog, Sammy, survived, his white coat blackened with soot, but two cats perished.
The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire, and Prince William County police are investigating the death, but foul play is not suspected at this time, police said. An accelerant-detecting dog was borrowed from Loudoun County for the investigation.
It was the first fatal fire in Prince William County since 2011.