Firefighters battle blaze in Gaithersburg’s historic Washington Grove community -- Gazette.Net


Kenneth McCathran was crawling back into bed Tuesday morning when a bright glow coming from his neighbor’s home in historic Washington Grove caught his eye.

He yelled to his wife to call 911 and headed out to find the home at 203 Second Ave. engulfed in flames.

“The porch was in flames and I couldn’t get to the front door,” he said.

After calling out for homeowner Eva Polston he banged on the homes next door to make sure those neighbors got out.

Fortunately, Polston was already on her way to work, according to McCathran, who said a neighbor reached her via cellphone.

Firefighters extinguished the fire in about 25 minutes, according to Montgomery County Assistant Chief Scott Graham. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries during the incident, he said. Firefighters from Rockville and Gaithersburg responded.

Washington Grove, dubbed a “town within a forest” is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with homes dating back to the late 1800s. Neighbor Joli McCathran said Polston’s home, built in 1875, was one of the originals. Polston could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“These homes are tinderboxes, wooden cottages,” Joli McCathran said.

Making it challenging is the layout of the community, with some homes only accessible via walkways.

“There are streets that are blocked off that are on footpaths,” Graham said. “This is where we have to hand pull lines to the scene. It is challenging but not insurmountable.”

In fact, according to McCathran, fire officials often come by to do a walk-through of the community to familiarize themselves with it. She said one walk-through occurred just a few weeks ago.

“When I was on 911 she said they are pulling to scene and I said they are not here. I could hear them and kept saying there is nobody here. There is terrible confusion in Washington Grove,” Joli McCathran said. “When you watch a neighbor’s house burn down and it is going so fast...but I don’t think we could have expected more.”