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Improperly discarded smoking materials started huge Fairfax County fire, causing $48M in damages

The fire near Alexandria on Saturday caused thick smoke to be seen all around the DMV. Officials believe it started in a trash chute.

WASHINGTON — The massive fire at a building under construction in Groveton last Saturday was caused after smoking materials were "improperly discarded," Fairfax Fire and Rescue said. 

Flames started in the second-floor trash chute of the residential portion of a multi-use complex that was under construction, causing roughly $48 million in total damages, officials said Thursday.

The total cost of those damages includes the loss of the main buildings under construction, as well as 14 townhouses and even one trailer. It also includes the damages that impacted five apartment buildings, 14 more additional townhomes nearby, four residential homes, 29 cars and multiple pieces of construction equipment.

Credit: Anthony Kelleher
Flames continued to break out at the 5-story building.

Fairfax County Fire Department received calls at 9:40 a.m. Saturday to the 2800 block of Poag Street off North King Highway in the Groveton area for a fire at the top of a five-story building that was under construction.

Initial reports show that a worker at the construction site noticed a fire in the trash chute and called 911 before trying to extinguish the flames. His attempts were unsuccessful and he evacuated the building.

The building was being developed by Combined Properties, a commercial property based out of D.C. and California. The South Alex development website said it was supposed to be retail and residences spaces and was set to open in 2021.

The apartment complex across the street, The Shelby, was also evacuated as the fire spread. While the building faced some damages, no one in the apartment complex was injured.

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