BREAKING NEWS — Man Dies in Fairlington Fire

by Katie Pyzyk October 30, 2012 at 10:35 am 11,110 56 Comments

An elderly man is dead after becoming trapped during a fire in his apartment in the 2900 block of S. Buchanan Street in Fairlington.

According to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Gregg Karl, smoke was coming from the top level apartment when crews arrived on the scene. Capt. Karl said because the investigation has just begun, it’s unclear exactly what started the fire and whether the man died from burns or smoke inhalation.

According to a law enforcement source, the fire is not considered suspicious. The victim was reportedly a hoarder and clutter prevented him from escaping from his apartment when the fire broke out. We’re told he was the only person in the apartment at the time and was found dead on the scene when rescue crews arrived. Nobody in any neighboring units was hurt.

About 10 residents have been displaced from their apartments while the investigation is underway, according to Capt. Karl. They are being allowed to seek shelter at the Fairlington Community Center until they receive word about being able to head back to their apartments.

Courtesy photo (top)


  • b-money

    Shame. Wonder if it’s Sandy-related or just “one of those things”.

  • FedUp

    It was not related to Sandy.

  • Cindy

    He was a hoarder per the article. I live in the neighborhood and heard a lot of firetrucks and an ambulance this morning. I am aware of a couple of women hoarders in the neighorhood (and suspect a couple of others). No matter what you tell them, the papers and boxes and trash remain.

    • South Side Chris

      I too live right down the street and though all hell had broken loose this morning. Thought that maybe somebody had been… slaughtered.

  • jan

    I believe this is the 2nd hoarder in the area to die in a fire this week.

    • anon

      maybe its a sign

    • SHLady

      do you have a link for the other story?

  • minimalism is the only way for me dudes

  • squirrel

    perhaps I need to rethink my lifestyle

  • Right of Center

    I’m from the neighborhood and heard the sirens this morning, too. Hoarder or not, its very sad.

  • Hoarding Task Force?

    I think Arlington County has a hoarding task force, but the County’s website keep it hidden.

  • Al

    I walked my dog right past his place not 10-15 minutes before the sirens began. Didn’t notice anything at the time — maybe I should have been more observant or it hadn’t happened yet.

  • Fairlington resident

    You can report hoarding by calling the county code enforcement division at 703-228-3232 or emailing [email protected]. I’ve done it for this exact reason.

  • Cindy

    I agree it is very sad but when a hoarders actions causes damage to other homes as well, it is doubly sad.

  • Kristine

    Fairlington condo units are tiny. It’s easy to fill your apartment or townhouse up with books, music, and clothing. You needn’t be a hoarder.

    • SR Guy

      Exactly, Kristine. Fairlington townhouses and apartments do not have enough closet space and storage areas for any “saver” lifestyle. I know of several people in Fairlington whose homes are like obstacle courses, with piles of paper and stuff everywhere. Someone once confided that she had four hammers in her townhome because she kept buying a new one when she needed one because she could’ find where she “hid” the others. I know another person, a writer, who stores his out of season clothes in bags inside the downstairs shower. If you like to acquire stuff, Fairlington, and its dearth of storage space, is not for you. Remember the family that once lived in the Arbor that would hand out their children’s used books, toys, and clothing to any parent they saw at the pool? If you had a child that was six months younger than theirs, it was like Christmas in July for your child. They were not being totally generous as many thought, they were getting rid of their clutter swiftly. When I first moved to Fairlington a neighbor took me through a tour of his home, and said to me “in Fairlington, less is more.” To this day, I cannot find a situation where “less is more” is more apropos than living in a Fairlington townhouse.

      • Tidy mom

        Yes, this situation is sad. But I also live in Fairlington and collect stuff and have 2 young children but manage to keep my home very clean and tidy. It is called going to the container store and target and buying baskets and containers to keep everything organized and I still manage to give my kids tons of attention.

        • zzzzz

          Yes, I’m not exactly tidy but I manage to live in a 1BR in Fairlington with lots of stuff.

          And the man who died may have had hoarding problems but more importantly he was a nice man who was very active in the community. This is very sad.

      • CW

        I’ve never been to Fairlington, but after the discussion that arises every time it comes up, I think that’s a good thing. Sounds like a cultist compound.

    • SHLady

      The units aren’t THAT small. It’s not Manhattan. if you have to navigate around piles of stuff, time to rethink your stuff.

      • Turtle

        I had a friend who lived in a 1BR in Farlington 4 several years. The unit was too small, but much larger than his studio apt. He managed to keep it neat. So sorry 4 the gentleman who lost his life. This more important, than the size of the apt or whether he was a hoarder.

  • Cindy

    I have about 1500 square feet. I don’t consider that tiny. Using space wisely and storing clothes in closets where they belong is one thing, but having so much other clutter that you can’t get out or in easliy is a serious issue. If someone is blaming the size of their condo/home on hoarding issues, then that tells me there is a serious issue there.

    • Greg

      Seriously? Your response is “I have 1,500 square feet. Surely someone in ONE THIRD of that space can fit all their stuff in there.”

      • Confused!!

        Why buy a unit with 500 sq feet if it’s too small for your junk? This guys unit was larger then 500 sq ft and it had a loft for all his junk.

        • Hmm

          Not everyone can afford a 1500 space. One makes do.

          • SHLady

            and then you pare down your stuff to fit the place you can afford.

          • Hmm

            Pare down to fit into 500 sq ft? Good luck.

          • SHLady

            People do it in cities all over the world. You don’t need that much stuff. You just want it.

  • Fairlington resident

    If the firefighters consider the victim a hoarder, this was not a case of someone having too many belongings. One of my neighbors had newspapers, boxes, and various trash stacked to the ceiling of her unit. She could not access the rear door and could barely squeeze through the front. She continued to collect items despite the conditions inside her home. So sad and preventable.

  • Bacon

    Most Fairlington town homes are 1,000-1,300 square feet. Realtors interpret that as 1,500 square feet.

  • Seriously

    Seriously….? Someone lost their life – hoarder or not people!

  • Will

    I used to live in this exact building. The guy on the top floor was definitely a hoarder-type, though I saw him regularly take things out to the trash. Probably just the accumulated “stuff” of a long life. Very sad.

  • A Fairlington neighbor

    The gentleman who died tragically this morning, Roger Lowe, was a wonderful North Fairlington neighbor. He was involved in the Fairlington Villages Condominium Association Board of Directors and he voluntarily served his community. I was saddened to hear of his untimely death this morning. He was a kind gentleman. I pray that he may rest in eternal peace.

    • SHLady

      Thanks for telling us a little about him. He was a real person, not a nameless hoarder. May his family be comforted.

      • Hmm


    • D.Israel

      thank you.

  • Another Fairlington Neighbor

    Thank you, Seriously. A life has been lost, regardless of the reason. I think this is time to honor a man, Roger Lowe, who served his community and who, sadly, died so tragically … not a time to criticize hoarding behaviors or debate what amount of space is considered adequate to store belongings. Of all times, this is one for compassion.

    • Annette Green

      Thank you, all who wrote kind things about Roger Lowe. He was a kind, compassionate and Great Uncle to my grandchildren. He will surely be missed and he was loved by family…..Rest in Peace Roger and Happy Birthday…Annette

  • yet another Fairlington neighbor

    I live in the building that faces the building where Roger lived, so I also knew him as a kind and gentle neighbor who was never too busy for a friendly hello. I am so shocked and saddened that this happened to Roger — may he Rest In Peace.

    Please everyone, check your smoke alarm(s) to make sure they are operating correctly. This tragic event led me to discover that neither of mine were working. Your smoke alarm is your first defense in the event of a fire – a functioning smoke alarm can easily save your life!

  • Fairlington Neighbor

    It is sad to see that a neighbor lost their life in this fire. I’m sure his neighbors, family, and friends would appreciate kind words and condolences instead of speculation.

  • D.Israel

    To everyone that commented. Roger Lowe was my uncle. Thank you for you kind words. He was a wonderful, loving, generous man. Yes, he kept too many “things” but he had no wife or children and no matter anyone’s faults…dieing in a tragic fire like this is a horrible thing, we are saddened by his untimely death. Thank you for your prayers.

    • Suzanne

      So sorry for your loss. Roger will be missed by all in Fairlington Villages and will be remembered for his volunteerism on behalf of the community.

    • SHLady

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Next door neighbor

      D. Israel, I’m truly sorry for your loss. I keep replaying the order of events from yesterday and I still can’t believe this happened. Roger was indeed a kind and caring neighbor, his death nothing less than tragic.

    • Hmm..

      My condolences on this untimely loss. Sending my best to you and others close to him.

  • JnA

    Could we receive followup reports about how this fire started and how much stuff (for lack of a better word) was stored in Mr. Lowe’s condo unit?

    • tiabscah

      Wrong website to have follow-up information.

    • Hmm..

      Is that your business?

  • CW

    Die tragically and the public is free to mock you anonymously. Choose to take your own life and the comments are closed. Makes perfect sense arlnow.

    • yet another Fairlington neighbor

      Very well put CW!! What reckless journalism, followed by some incredibly callous and inconsiderate comments by people who clearly did not know Roger Lowe or pause to consider the effect of their words on his grieving family.

  • Kristine

    For everyone’s information, the condo association where Mr. Lowe lived has Monday through Saturday curbside household trash pickup, curbside recycling Tuesday and Wednesday, pickup of large household items on Thursdays, and Fall and Spring yard sales. Condo association urges everyone to check smoke detector batteries fall and spring. Fairlington buildings are all-electric and usual causes of fire are incidents involving cooking on electric stoves, contractors starting fires while doing repairs and renovations, and lightning from storms. Fire station is 2 blocks from Mr. Lowe’s building, and the ACFD is pro-active in the community.

    Please do a followup report on this fire.

  • Boxiebunny

    I am so sorry that this happened. How terribly tragic. I live on the next block and heard the fire engines. When I was having problems with my air conditioning, it was discovered that the circuit breaker box had some incorrect circuit breakers in it. Some of the circuit breakers had actually melted. I was lucky because my neighbor had a fire which started with the circuit breaker box. I suggest the everyone have their circuit breaker boxes checked out to make sure.

  • B

    Roger was also very active in local community theater for many, many years. He was quite a generous donor, served on boards, and was a hands-on volunteer on various backstage production components as well as for more public events that promoted the all-volunteer theater organizations that he supported. His legacy is being be honored by the organizations that he so willingly served.

  • A Fairlington neighbor

    @ D. Israel My sympathy and prayers are extended to you and your family upon the tragic and untimely death of your dear uncle, Roger Lowe. Please know that he was liked, admired and appreciated by so many of us here in his Fairlington neighborhood. He will be sorely missed. I will keep your family in my prayers. May he rest in eternal peace.

  • Tabby_TwoTone

    Very sorry for your loss, family and friends of Roger Lowe.

    Also, find it a bit strange that the alleged hoarding is even mentioned. People succumb to smoke inhalation quickly. It may be that the amount of ‘stuff’ in his unit had nothing, or very little, to do with it.

  • Kim N.

    I have known Roger in community theater for 20 years. He gave freely of his time and talents to bring quality arts to the DC area, and was a good, generous, dedicated person. His death is a great loss to Hexagon and other theater groups. My prayers go out to his family.


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