A homeowner in Maryland tried to fight a snake infestation with coal, only to burn their own house down, causing more than $1m in damage. Nobody was injured.
Montgomery county fire and rescue officials notified the public about the blaze right after it happened on 23 November, describing a conflagration that left a “large two-three-story single family house with heavy fire throughout structure and roof collapse”.
About 75 firefighters responded. Conditions were “dark and cold” – around -4C (25F) – as they battled the flames.
More than a week later, the department’s public information officer revealed more details. The cause was “accidental”, they said, specifically the “homeowner using smoke to manage snake infestation”.
Authorities believe the chosen heat source for the attempted serpent eradication was coals, which were located “too close to combustibles”. The fire’s area of origin was described as “basement, walls/floor”.
While uncommon, there have been other incidents in the US in which homeowners accidentally set fire to their homes while battling pests.
In 2017, a man destroyed most of his Georgia home when trying to “burn bees out of their nest”, the Associated Press reported.
The Humane Society of the United States says firefighters have repeatedly faced dangers from retrieving snakes, including an April 2013 incident in Thornton, Colorado.
Then, firefighters removed “more than 1,000 snakes and other reptiles from the basement of a home that was engulfed in flames”. Some of the creatures were described as aggressive, with some getting loose. The house was the location of Boas and Balls, a business selling snakes such as ball pythons and boa constrictors.
In Maryland, fire officials said: “Status of snakes undetermined.”