Officials: Clogged dryer vent sparked fire that displaced 9 people

4 animals died in the fire

A fire at a Newport News house overnight on May 16 displaced a family of nine people, which included two babies. The Red Cross assisted the family. Fire department investigators believed the fire started in the garage area and spread to the rest of the house. Credit: WAVY/Rico Bush

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Newport News Fire Department says a clogged dryer vent sparked an overnight fire that displaced nine people, including two babies.

No one was injured, but four family pets died.

The fire happened around 1 a.m. at a home on 80th Street, near Roanoke and Chestnut Avenues, according to Newport News investigators. A total of 24 firefighters responded to the scene Tuesday, and had the fire under control within about 30 minutes.

Gallery: Newport News home damaged in overnight fire

Images from the scene show the home is destroyed.

The family was able to escape the house overnight, and is now receiving help from the Red Cross.

“We couldn’t get out. I had to jump over the fence. I cut my chest trying to get out,” said displaced resident Travon Bottoms.

Relatives and friends of the Jirtle family gathered on the home’s front lawn Tuesday to be with each other.

“It makes me feel very, very happy that everyone got out okay,” said neighbor Jackie Beale, who witnessed the fire.

The Jirtle’s 16-year-old son Elijah, who attends Heritage High School, credits his mom for yelling ‘fire!’

“She did save everyone, so I am grateful,” Elijah said.

Investigators say the fire started in the utility room of the home and spread to the rest of the house.

“I woke up and heard mom yelling and screaming and everybody got up and ran out of the house,” says Travon Bottoms, who grabbed his infant child and ran. “I cut my chest up trying to get out. I knocked everything out of the way and we all got out.”

The garage had been turned into a living area, and in the back of a utility room there was a washer and dryer, a gas furnace and a gas hot water tank. Fire investigators think a clogged dryer vent caused the fire.

“I see the flames, I said, ‘Oh my God, the house is on fire.’ I thought I was in a dream… It still doesn’t look real. I still think it was a dream to this point.”

A dog, a cat and two rabbits were killed. Elijah says the loss of his golden retriever Jax hurts.

“I didn’t go inside. I just came back there, and he was just lying there,” Elijah said with great emotion, his eyes tearing up. “He was playful, and he would always be by me, so it’s kind of hard to see him go.”

The Newport News Fire Department wants to remind residents to always clean the inside dryer vent after each use and your outdoor dryer vent at least once a year.