STEVENSVILLE — Tower Gardens resident Gail Ruppe was standing by her kitchen sink Sunday morning when she heard an explosion. Moments after calling out to her family to see what was going on, making sure the noise wasn’t from their home, she heard a second blast.

“I looked up and I saw a big black tunnel of smoke. I ran to the side window and I saw the most gigantic fire,” Ruppe said. “It was so scary.”

About 7:15 a.m. Sunday, March 6, United Communities, Kent Island, Grasonville and Queenstown volunteer fire departments, as well as multiple units from Anne Arundel County, responded to a one-alarm house fire on Beachside Drive.

The house, which serves as a vacation home, was vacant at the time of the fire, and no one was injured while putting the blaze out. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

According to the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office, it took 60 firefighters about two hours to control the blaze at the two-story, single-family house at 420 Beachside Dr. Damages to the house, owned by Barbara Openshaw of Annapolis, are estimated at $600,000 with damages to contents estimated at $100,000, the fire marshal’s office reported.

When United Communities volunteers first arrived at the scene, Station 9 Lt. Rick Ringenbach said the house was fully involved, engulfed in flames. Fire Chief Chris Tona, who was in command during the incident, advised everybody not to go inside but to surround the house to begin putting the fire out, Ringenbach said.

Because there aren’t many fire hydrants in the area, the crew alerted for a tanker task force to support Kent Island and Grasonville’s water tankers “just to be on the safe side,” Ringenbach said. The crew also drafted water from the Chesapeake Bay into fire trucks. He said this method is common for rural areas that don’t have fire hydrants as well as for fighting large fires, like this one.

“We just saw the porch go and then the roof went,” Ruppe said. “It was terrifying. It was just absolutely terrifying.” Ruppe said it was fortunate that there was no wind because she feared the flames could have spread to nearby dwellings.

Though the fire took about two hours to temper, Ringenbach said his department stayed at the scene for close to six hours while a deputy state fire marshal investigated and watching for hot spots.

“These kinds of fires, you got to make sure that it doesn’t rekindle, so you got to make sure that you put it out completely, 100 percent all the way,” Ringenbach said. “And that’s ‘cause it’s so big, there was so much fire.”

The fire marshal’s report said a smoke alarm was present and was activated, as was the house’s fire alarm.

The Crumpton VFD filled in for UCVFD while it responded to the incident.

Anyone with information on this incident is asked to call the Upper Eastern Regional Office of the State Fire Marshal at 410-822-7609.

Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.

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