- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2007

A fire yesterday in the Georgetown home of a former National Gallery of Art curator caused at least $250,000 in damage and possibly destroyed a significant collection of artwork, authorities said.

The fire in the home of David E. Rust in the 2800 block of P Street Northwest started at about 11 a.m.

Mr. Rust kept an extensive collection of artwork inside the attached, three-story home, and some of the collection was “very valuable,” D.C. fire department spokesman Alan Etter said.

“He clearly is an art aficionado,” Mr. Etter said.

Firefighters arrived to find flames shooting out of the first-floor window, and they spent a half-hour bringing the fire under control. Mr. Rust, who lived alone, was not at home, but firefighters searched the building four times because neighbors insisted that he was in there, Mr. Etter said.

Most of the fire damage was on the first floor and to the front of the home, though the smoke caused damage to the upstairs.

The fire started because of the boxes of magazines and books scattered around his house, Mr. Etter said. One of the boxes in the kitchen area was sitting on top of a surge protector, which caused it to heat up and catch fire, he said.

He said the $250,000 estimate was just for the building and that the cost could be much higher depending on the value of the artwork. He did not know how much of the collection had been damaged.

“All the pieces in the back [of the house] seemed to be salvageable,” he said. “Several pieces on the second floor appeared to be damaged and possibly some pieces on the first floor.”

Mr. Rust declined to speak to The Washington Times about his collection. He was “very upset” after returning to his home about 1 p.m., Mr. Etter said.

Two cats died in the fire, he said. Mr. Rust is temporarily living with a neighbor.

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