Woman, 69, is killed as fire hits rowhouse

January 17, 1991|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Evening Sun Staff

A 69-year-old Highlandtown woman died last night when a fire, reportedly caused by an electrical malfunction, raced through her tiny O'Donnell Street rowhouse.

Olga Mae Belle Swiec, of the 3200 block of O'Donnell St., was found unconscious on the kitchen floor by firefighters who attempted to revive her at the scene. She died of burns and smoke inhalation at 9:05 p.m. at Francis Scott Key Medical Center, fire officials said.

Swiec, according to police arson investigator Detective David Webb, is the mother of Detective John Swiec, of the robbery squad.

The son arrived at the scene shortly after his mother was taken to the hospital, Webb said.

Fire investigator Paul Geoghegan said the blaze, the city's fourth fatal fire this year, was reported at 7:54 p.m. and was under control at 8:06 p.m. He said the two-story dwelling was extensively damaged.

Geoghegan said the fire apparently was caused by an electrical malfunction in a lamp and a wall socket in a middle first-floor room.

"We found positive signs of charring in the vicinity of the lamp's wire and extensive burning of the metal lamp itself," he said.

Geoghegan said the fire quickly spread to several pieces of furniture, causing the victim to flee toward the kitchen door, where she fell.

A next-door neighbor, Olga DeBloom, said Swiec had several health problems and may have been napping on a sofa in the middle room when the fire broke out.

DeBloom said Swiec's husband, Joseph, died a few years ago and that the victim had lived on O'Donnell Street for nearly 20 years.

DeBloom said she was home with her disabled husband, John, shortly before 8 p.m. when she smelled smoke.

She said she got her husband to the top of the stairs leading to the first floor and covered him with blankets in preparation to get him down the steps and outside.

"We were waiting to see what we had to do," she said, "when the firemen came to our house and assured us that the fire next door was out."

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