A well-known Vienna photographer escaped serious harm April 16 after fire badly damaged the home that for decades has served as his studio.
At about 4:28 a.m. that day, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and City of Fairfax Fire Department dispatched units to the fire at 135 Park St., N.E., in Vienna.
Arriving units found flames shooting from the roof of the two-story, wood-framed, single-family home. Crews requested a second alarm because of the volume of fire and the unknown number, and status, of occupants who might have been in the structure.
Crews located and awakened the lone occupant, T.R. Cook, and assisted him in evacuating the house. Rescue personnel later transported Cook to a hospital for a checkup.
Fire crews conducted an exterior attack on the fire, then quickly switched to an interior attack and brought the blaze under control. There were no reported firefighter injuries. The house’s smoke alarms sounded, but Cook could not hear them, officials said.
Fire investigators determined the blaze started on the second floor and was caused by spontaneous combustion of home-improvement materials such as sawdust, floor-stain cans and rags.
The fire displaced Cook, who declined assistance offered by the Red Cross. The blaze caused about $513,500 worth of damage, officials said.
The Sun Gazette could not reach Cook for comment.
Cook opened Cook’s Photo Art Studio in 1966 and since then has photographed generations of area residents. It is unclear how long the photo studio has been located at that eight-bedroom house, which according to Fairfax County tax records was built in 1900 and remodeled in 1974.
Cook, a U.S. Army veteran, at age 72 did a static-line parachute jump in Orange, Va., in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary of his first jump.
He is a longtime member and former president of the Optimist Club of Greater Vienna. The club each spring – including April 20 this year – gives out gives out T.R. Cook Youth Awards of Excellence to rising high-school seniors for six areas of excellence: academics, citizenship, fine arts, science, sports and technology.
Cook’s engagement with Vienna is legendary, said former Vienna Town Council member Laurie Cole, who also belongs to the Optimist Club.
“He didn’t just join local groups like the Optimists, he led them and recruited for them – I was one of his recruits!” she said. “He seemed to know everyone, whether from his civic groups or photography business or political activity.”