Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pre-dawn fire destroys $2M Ashton house on Sunday

House had been on market for more than a year

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Brian Lewis⁄The Gazette
A home at 100 Ashton Oaks Court in Ashton was destroyed by a fire before dawn on Sunday.
A fire that destroyed a $2 million Ashton house before dawn Sunday remains under investigation.

No one was at home at the 6,300-square-foot house, at 100 Ashton Oaks Court, when a neighbor and a passing motorist smelled smoke about 3 a.m. and called for help, a spokesman for the county’s Fire and Rescue Service said.

The 21-year-old house, which has been listed for sale for more than a year, was on a five-acre lot at the end of a long, wooded driveway and not visible from the road.

Authorities believe the fire, which caused an estimated $3 million in damage, could have been burning for some time.

As he watched investigators comb through debris, homeowner Peter L. Chu, a dentist whose professional license has been suspended, declined to comment. ‘‘No, I have a lot going on right now.”

Heavy equipment was brought in to help search the rubble Monday and all that remained standing of the house were brick chimneys and walls, said Pete Piringer, a fire service spokesman.

Soon after more than 60 firefighters arrived, a brick portico collapsed, Piringer said. There were no injuries. Piringer said investigators are expected to be back at the scene Wednesday.

According to Weichert Realtors, the six-bedroom house has been for sale for 439 days and is listed at $2,199,999.

The house is assessed at $2.3 million, according to tax state records.

Attempts to reach Chu by phone Tuesday at a dental office listed under his name on Randolph Road were unsuccessful.

Lancaster County, Pa., court records show that Chu pleaded guilty in 2003 to a violation of the controlled substances act for delivery of marijuana and to criminal use of a communication facility. According to a Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry newsletter, in 2005 Chu had his license revoked for 10 years because he pleaded guilty to a felony under the state’s controlled substance, drug, device and cosmetic act.

The Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners also ordered a suspension of Chu’s license effective Aug. 3, 2005, for a conviction of possession and sale of drugs. Those convictions occurred in Pennsylvania.

Court records in that case could not be obtained.

Chu’s license is revoked in both states, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs and the Maryland State Board of Dental Examiners.

Staff Writer Contessa Crisostomo contributed to this report.