One person died and two people were hurt early Tuesday in Ashburn, Virginia, as a fire consumed multiple homes, burning one house to the ground and appearing to destroy two others, officials said.
The woman who died had been unaccounted for after the blaze, News4 learned. Her name was not immediately released.
Neighbors said the two people hurt are women, and the woman killed was the mother of one of the injured women.
Smoking materials improperly discarded outside the destroyed home caused the deadly fire, investigators with the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Fire Marshal's Office said Tuesday evening. Officials said the fire was accidental and it caused $4 million in damage to homes and cars.
Residents said they were stunned by how quickly the flames spread.
“You just don’t know how something like that is going to spread within minutes,” one neighbor said. “The houses on either end were taken — just completely engulfed in flames. It’s hard to see.”
Firefighters were called to the blaze in the 42900 block of Nashua Court about 1:20 a.m. and arrived three minutes later, Loudoun County fire officials said.
Investigators found the fire consuming one single-family home and spreading to three others.
Crews battled flames in subfreezing cold and breezy conditions that may have whipped up the flames. The water used to fight the flames froze into icicles and frosty residue that covered scorched debris.
Mike Hart, who lives down the street, said he sprayed the side of a home with a garden house to try to prevent the fire from spreading.
Two people were rushed to the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital. They lived in the home where the fire started, which is considered a total loss, officials said.
The woman killed also lived in that home.
Everyone else escaped, officials said. No firefighters were reported injured.
One home was reduced to a pile of smoldering rubble. A neighboring house was gutted: Walls were gone, windows blown out and charred beams exposed. The blackened interior of another neighbor's home was exposed, and part of the roof burned away, video from the scene shows.
Nine adults and two children were displaced, officials said.
As of 5:30 a.m., the bulk of the fire was out, but firefighters were working on putting out hot spots.
Fire officials didn’t immediately detail a potential cause of the blaze. An investigation is underway.
Hart said he feels for his neighbors, especially a family that recently moved in.
"Lady brought her child to our house and fell to our knees and started crying and said it was her dream home," Hart said.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” Hart said. “But you know what? They’ll rebuild, we’ll support them as much as we can. We’ll help them. We’re here to help.”