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Fire That Destroyed Fairfax Development Caused By Smoking Materials, Officials Say

Flames engulfing the South Alex development Saturday in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.
Flames engulfing the South Alex development Saturday in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County.

More details are beginning to emerge about the fire that burned down the South Alex development in Fairfax County Saturday.

Fairfax County officials said Thursday the fire was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials and resulted in $48.2M in damage to townhouses, apartment buildings and construction equipment, The Washington Post reports

Fire Department spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt told the Post that is the most damage from any fire in the county's history. 

The fire began at 9:40 a.m. Saturday and was first seen in a trash chute by a construction worker at the South Alex development, located near the intersection of Richmond Highway and North Kings Highway. The worker called 911 and firefighters arrived within three minutes, officials said. 

Roughly 150 firefighters spent about four hours working to put out the fire. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries and were taken to the hospital, treated and released, officials said. One civilian also suffered an injury, according to the Post, despite initial announcements that no one was injured. 

Officials also initially described it as a five-alarm fire but later amended that to say the fire topped out at four alarms. 

Combined Properties, the developer behind the South Alex project, was building a mixed-use project with 400 apartments, 21 townhouses, an Aldi grocery store and 20K SF of additional retail. Combined released a statement Saturday saying the building was "destroyed" but they are committed to rebuilding it. 

The developer has declined to answer questions regarding the fire, but it has put additional information on its website. A notice posted on Combined Properties' home page reiterates its appreciation of first responders and commitment to rebuild, and also said it is working with the community to help those impacted by the fire. The notice lists contact information for an insurance representative and a link to file an insurance claim.