Taking Action

Controlled burn damages cars and homes in Colonial Heights, city says it’s not responsible

Taking Action

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WRIC) — A controlled burn didn’t go according to plan in Colonial Heights and now residents are left to clean up the mess after they say their property was unexpectedly damaged during the fire.

It’s now been four days since the blaze and the faint smell of smoke when the wind blows still fills the air. Residents in the Briarcliffe subdivision tell 8News they aren’t just upset because their property was damaged, but more upset they were not notified the burn was happening.

James Fariaz said he panicked when he saw the fire and thought his neighbor’s house was going up in flames. He says he woke up his family and was ready to kick in a door and help.

“I thought my house was on fire,” said Fariaz. “It was red ash glowing, falling on us all night long.”

Ring Doorbell video captured the blaze behind the subdivision late Friday night. Large flames engulfed land behind the neighborhood.

“We looked and you could see big flames like 20 feet over the trees,” resident Roy Chini Jr. said.

Neighbors tell 8News high flames sent hot embers and falling ash onto their cars and homes leaving behind damage. Fariaz says he woke up to smoke in his home and couldn’t stop coughing. He says the fumes were so strong, he was forced to stay in a hotel over the weekend.

“The insides of our home are smelling like a campfire and we have heavy damage to the clear coat on our car paint,” Fariaz explained.

He showed 8News pictures of his car which was spotted with burned ash. He says he has taken it to the car wash three times and it’s still riddled with damage. That damage is a similar scene across the neighborhood, including Chini’s home.

In a tour of his home, Chini showed 8News singed plants, burn holes in patio furniture and patio umbrella’s dusted with soot. Another neighbor showed 8News a bowl of ash that he collected from his family pool.

“I was just pretty upset,” Chini exclaimed.

The long-time resident says he’s also upset that he and his neighbors were not notified that controlled burn was happening. Chini’s wife got emotional and said it was horrific waking up to large flames dangerously close to their home.

“We should have got notice,” Chini said. “If it was in the mail or if it was an email or maybe just on the answering machine or something. They should have told us.”

According to the City of Colonial Heights, weather conditions, including cloud cover and high humidity, were to blame for the ‘negative impacts.’

The city said it’s not responsible for the damages and neither is the city fire department. 8News visited the department, however, we were referred to the city for further questions. 8News also called the City Manager, Douglas Smith, who says they have no further comment than what was posted online.

In an online bulletin, the city stated that they issued a burn permit to Townsend & Son Bulldozing, a contracting company that carried out the event. They also list H.L. Henshaw Construction Inc. as the owner of the property where the burn occurred and direct residents to call and address their concerns. The bulletin also advises affected residents to contact their homeowners insurance to discuss possible coverage of damages.

Some residents shared that they called both company’s numerous times only to be met with no answer and want accountability.

“I’m not out here to get anyone in trouble, but someone needs to be held accountable for what happened. It was obviously out of control,” Fariaz said.

After an investigation, the fire department did revoke Townsend & Son Bulldozing’s burn permit. 8News put in several inquires to Townsend & Son Bulldozing and H.L. Henshaw Construction Inc., but no one answered the phone.

Neighbors share that their fight isn’t over and they plan to take their concerns to city council members during their October meeting. Some are hiring legal representation to sue for damages and lack of transparency.

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