LINKS
2018-03-07 / Featured / Front Page

Recent fires in Brandermill shock residents, business owners

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER


The Feb. 28 house fire in the 2200 block of Millcrest Terrace. 
PHOTO BY CHESTERFIELD POLICE LT. DON STORY The Feb. 28 house fire in the 2200 block of Millcrest Terrace. PHOTO BY CHESTERFIELD POLICE LT. DON STORY As happens some mornings, Andrew Cochrane woke early on Feb. 28 at the insistence of Cash, his three-year-old Maltese and Yorkshire terrier mix.

Having gone to sleep only a couple hours earlier, Cochrane was groggy as he put on a sweatshirt and sandals to take the dog out. As he stood on the back deck, taking in the cold February air, Cochrane noticed someone walking in the woods behind his neighbor’s vacant house on Millcrest Terrace in Brandermill.

Thinking it strange, he continued watching as the man proceeded down his neighbor’s driveway and attempted to open the doors of cars in his cul-de-sac, rummaging through the unlocked ones. Cochrane called the police, reported what had happened, then watched as the man walked down the block.

He called again when the man reappeared minutes later, smoking a cigarette in the driveway of the vacant house, which was between tenants and had been undergoing repairs for water damage. As the man stood in the driveway, smoke began to pour from the gables of the empty home. Soon, flames could be seen through the second-floor windows.

Andrew Cochrane, above, with Cash, a Maltese and Yorkshire terrier mix, in front of the house that burned next to his in Brandermill. JENNY MCQUEEN Andrew Cochrane, above, with Cash, a Maltese and Yorkshire terrier mix, in front of the house that burned next to his in Brandermill. JENNY MCQUEEN “Just a few minutes and it went from visible flames to the roof was on fire, and then we’ve got flames 15, 20 feet above the roofline,” recalls Cochrane, sitting in his home office last Friday, his large tabby cat, Pawley, purring away on his desk. Later in the day on Feb. 28, Daniel J. Adkins, 18, of Midlothian, was arrested and charged with four counts of arson related to the residential fire and for setting fires in the Wilton Square at Brandermill shopping center three days earlier. The shopping center, which backs up against the sixth hole fairway of Brandermill’s golf course, suffered a burned wooden deck and burns on a small portion of a wall.

The November fire at Wilton Square at Brandermill, right, claimed four businesses, including a Pizza Hut restaurant. JENNY McQUEENThe November fire at Wilton Square at Brandermill, right, claimed four businesses, including a Pizza Hut restaurant. JENNY McQUEENA search of Virginia’s courts database reveals numerous previous charges against Adkins, including possession of marijuana, three counts of entering a structure to commit assault and battery, destruction of property, possession of alcohol, grand larceny greater than $200, petit larceny and entering or setting in motion a vehicle. Adkins was found guilty in absentia of the marijuana charge on Dec. 14. He has hearing dates for his other non-arson charges on March 28 and April 10.

For Susan Yoo, the fires at Wilton Square bring an unsettling sense of deja vu. Last November, her dry cleaning business was one of four dislocated by a different fire. Following that fire, which also displaced a Pizza Hut and a Chinese eatery, Yoo and her husband scrambled to reopen Joy Cleaners in a vacant storefront a few doors down.

“I couldn’t sleep a whole week,” Yoo, a native of South Korea who moved to the United States in 1980, says of the November fire. “Fortunately, we have insurance.”

Lasttime,Yoowasnotifiedbya4a.m.phone call that her business had been harmed by fire; this time, she learned about it from the morning TV news. While the second fire didn’t impact Yoo’s business, it was upsetting nonetheless. She’s still getting used to working in the new space where she spends 12 hours a day, six days a week.

“I’m lucky,” says Yoo, as a worker for Belfor Property Restoration sweeps the site of the original fire outside. “The second one is a little less frightening. [The] first time, I can’t think. I was shocked.”

Jo Fletcher, owner of acupuncture and massage studio Paths to Wellness in Wilton Square, is also grateful that the recent fires weren’t more destructive.

“I almost had a heart attack because that deck [is] like two feet from us,” says Fletcher. “Scared the living daylights out of us.”

With no lights on the buildings at night and few surrounding structures, Fletcher says the shopping center must seem like an easy target for mischief.

“I’m delighted that they caught him this soon, before more fires were started. This fire after the other fire really shocked the whole community,” Fletcher says. “I hope he gets help.”

Chesterfield has experienced an uptick in fires recently. Other incidents have included a fatal residential fire on March 1, a Feb. 24 fire that displaced a family of four, and a Feb. 22 incident in which a man is believed to have set fire to his house before fatally shooting himself.

Charles Knowles, acting battalion chief of Chesterfield Fire and EMS, acknowledges that the department has seen more action than normal so far this year. In January, the department saw 47 structure fires, an 85 percent increase over the same month in 2017.

“It’s an anomaly, but the last two months have been pretty busy for us,” Knowles says, adding that cooking fires are the most common cause of incidents in Chesterfield. “Other than the arson fires, there are no other ones that are linked to one another. They are separate and to themselves.”

The cause of the November fire at Wilton Square is still listed as undetermined, and Knowles says there is no known relation between that fire and the recent arsons.

Perhaps the only one to come out ahead in these scenarios is Cash, Cochrane’s Morkie. Cash received chicken nuggets from Chick-Fil-A as a reward for waking up his owner at the right time.

But as easygoing as Cochrane generally seems to be – he refers to Cash as his “little Ewok” – he still finds the fire next door troubling.

“What if I had not been awake?” wonders Cochrane, who owns a contracting company. “How quickly could that have spread to my house?

“Everybody’s kind of edgy in Brandermill right now. It’s been really upsetting.” ¦

Return to top