Montgomery County homeowner using smoke to manage snake infestation causes $1M in fire damage

A fire that burned a large home in a rural area of Montgomery County was started accidentally when the homeowner used smoke to manage a snake infestation.


Pete Piringer / @mcfrsPIO

The fire was reported Thursday night at a three-story house on Big Woods Road in the Dickerson / Poolesville area.

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Pete Piringer / @mcfrsPIO

Officials say hot coals were placed too close to combustibles sparking the blaze. The home was in a non-hydrant area at the end of a nearly mile-long driveway making fighting the fire more difficult for firefighters.

FOX 5 asked the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about how common snake infestations are in the state.

"During the wintertime, like any other animal, you know they’re naturally going to want to find a space where they can stay warm and they’re not going to freeze," says conservation specialist Beth Schlimm. "So typically that might mean finding a crevice in a fallen tree or in a pile of rocks. But occasionally they find a crack in someone’s foundation to their house…"

Damage estimates are estimated at $1 million. No injuries were reported.


The basement of the home is where Montgomery County Fire Spokesperson Pete Piringer says the fire began, unbeknownst to the owner.

"Whatever process was being used, and there was number off, they believe a number of platforms --  metal buckets, containers of various kinds used, throughout, creating the smoke," he says. "And they believe some of that, again, combustibles, in this case, may have been a wall or some other combustible material, too close to the heat source."

Maryland DNR officials and pest control experts say they don't recommend using this smoke method to get rid of snakes.

Schlimm says the best way to prevent snake infestations is to seal any foundation cracks, remove debris piles that would attract rodents and call an expert.