Neighbors sickened by house fire Charred rubble leaves a stink WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills

April 20, 1993|By Monica Norton | Monica Norton,Staff Writer

Mary Jane McGill feels as if she has had salt poured into an open wound. Bud Longstreth, between coughs, says both he and his wife have suffered recurring illnesses.

The three Odenton residents are dealing with the aftermath of a house fire in which neighbor Robert J. Groseclose has been charged with arson and the charred remains of his house have sent an odor through the community.

"We sit and smell this mess everyday," Mrs. McGill said. "I'm a couple of doors away, so it's not too bad for us when the weather's not bad. But all of us [in the neighborhood] have been through our house looking for something burning and then realizing it's coming from [Mr. Groseclose's] house."

Neighbors say they want the rubble that used to be Mr. Groseclose's home removed. County officials also would like to see the remains of the home removed and have taken steps to see that the property is cleared. But the onus of clearing the property rests on Mr. Groseclose, and county officials say he has failed to clear the site despite several notices.

The house, in the 1200 block of Brietwert Ave., burned two days before Christmas. No one was injured during the fire, which spurred neighbors and members of the community to donate $1,500, clothes and Christmas presents to help the family.

But within a month of the fire, Mr. Groseclose, who shared the home with his mother and two children, was charged with arson of a dwelling and arson to defraud an insurance company.

Days after the fire left the house condemned, an unsafe notice was filed for Mr. Groseclose's home, said William Bryant, chief county building inspector. Mr. Groseclose never picked up the notice. He was given until Jan. 19 to remove the debris, but he requested and was granted a 30-day extension.

Before the end of the 30-day extension, Mr. Bryant said, Mr. Groseclose was arrested and jailed on charges relating to the fire. With the debris still there, the county has turned the matter over to the state's attorney's office for prosecution, Mr Bryant said.

The revelation of Mr. Groseclose's alleged involvement in the fire left many neighbors upset. But now, they said, they simply want to rid the neighborhood of the remnants of Mr. Groseclose's home.

"You get outside and you start breathing in the air and you just feel sick to your stomach," Mrs. McGill said. "I can only open the windows on one side of my house. There's no such thing as letting in the fresh air."

Also, she said, rodents have taken up residence in the rubble.

Mr. Longstreth said his wife, Catherine, has suffered from headaches for several months now and that his persistent cough led him to believe he had pneumonia.

Doctors say they don't know what the culprit is, and Mr. Longstreth has set up an appointment with a specialist to find out what is irritating his lungs.

"I've already missed three days of work," he said. "They've given me medication, and that hasn't worked. All I know is I've had this cough for over two months. I get up in the morning and it's really bad. When I go to work, it's not as bad. But when I come home, it starts up again."

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