Outdated Water Mains, Isolated Location Made Mansion Fire Difficult to Fight

Preliminary report lists several factors that made fire difficult to handle

By Tom Sherwood
|  Friday, Aug 7, 2009  |  Updated 9:26 PM EDT
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Watch raw video of a large house fire in northwest <a title=Washington." />

Watch raw video of a large house fire in northwest Washington.

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Chain Bridge Road Mansion Fire Hard to Right: Report

Several factors teamed to make it very difficult for firefighters to fight last week's fire at the Cafritz mansion on Chain Bridge Road.
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WASHINGTON -- Narrow, outdated water mains and limited fire department access made battling a blaze at a Chain Bridge Road mansion hard for D.C. firefighters to fight, according to a preliminary report.

The 15,000-square-foot home of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, along with millions of dollars in artwork inside, were destroyed in the blaze last week.

"What was most striking to the fire department upon arriving on the scene was that the first floor was almost entirely engulfed in flames," Mayor Adrian Fenty said.

The lavish mansion did not have an interior sprinkler system, which might have helped ease the damage, fire department officials said.

"We would always encourage residents to have sprinkler systems," said Assistant Fire Chief Lawrence Schultz. "That's the right and safe thing to do in any neighborhood."

The isolated and hilly location on Chain Bridge Road in Northwest and outdated water mains were major factors, too, Fenty said.

"An 8-inch water main on chain bridge road is 75 years old," Fenty said.

Fenty stopped short of blaming either the fire department or the city's water agency, which have feuded in the past about preparedness for fires.

The fire department may have to deploy large water trucks in any future incidents like this, Fenty said.

A review of the fire is continuing.

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