Boy, 4, killed in fire at Dundalk home his family escapes

January 01, 1994|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff Writer

Early yesterday morning, little Thomas Micciche pulled an easy chair closer to a closet in his family's Dundalk home so he could reach a video of one of the Disney movies or Broadway musicals he so loved.

Less than an hour later, the 4-year-old was dead -- killed in a fire that started when a gas heater resembling a fireplace ignited the easy chair at the home in the 7000 block of Sollers Point Road.

Last night, his mother, Monica Micciche, recalled the horror of rushing out of the burning wood-and-brick bungalow, blinded by smoke, with two of her three children.

Her husband, John, had been sleeping in the family room when Thomas apparently moved the chair to reach a video, as he often has in the past, Mrs. Micciche said.

Mrs. Micciche, who was with the other two children in another room, said she heard her husband scream, "'Fire, fire!'

"I gave him the fire extinguisher, but the house was completely filled with smoke, and I broke for the front door," she said.

Just after the 8:45 a.m. blaze began, as thick smoke billowed from the windows and flames pushed their way through the roof, Mrs. Micciche bolted into the frigid morning air in a nightgown.

She held Paul, 6, and Ericka, 3, both of whom escaped uninjured.

Outside, her husband frantically punched out windows in a vain attempt to return to rescue Thomas.

"We didn't know if Tommy made it out too. We were praying and praying that he had gotten out, but we couldn't hear anything or see anything."

Mr. and Mrs. Micciche were treated for smoke inhalation and minor burns at Francis Scott Key Medical Center, then released.

One firefighter was treated at Key for a knee injury, another for a back injury.

Capt. Patrick Kelly, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman, said heavy smoke and concerns about the home's stability prevented firefighters from entering immediately.

It took 40 firefighters an hour to bring the one-alarm blaze under control, he said.

The value of the brick-and-wood home, which family members said was equipped with smoke detectors, was estimated at $120,000.

The Micciches bought the home about four years ago and moved there from a two-bedroom, East Baltimore rowhouse.

'Trying to be strong'

Last night, Mrs. Micciche, her husband, an agent for a real estate title company, and the two surviving children gathered at her mother's Highlandtown home with other family members and found strength in faith.

"I think that's the only reason I'm sane right now -- to know that he's with the Lord and with the Virgin Mary, and he's being well taken care of," Mrs. Micciche said.

She did her best to explain Tommy's death to her other children.

"They know he's not here. They know he's in heaven but they're too young to understand everything. We're just trying to be strong for them."

Neighbor saw flames

A neighbor whose house is about 30 feet behind the Micciches' home recalled that she had been doing dishes after eating breakfast with her 19-month-old daughter, Courtney.

Janet Warlick said she saw what she at first thought was steam from a clothes dryer. "Then," she recalled, "I saw the flames shooting out, and I knew this is it."

Mrs. Warlick ran outside, her daughter in her arms.

"The father was out there punching windows and he was screaming the child's name -- 'Thomas! Thomas!' " Mrs. Warlick said. "The mother just kept saying, 'Get the baby! Get the baby!' "

Later, Mrs. Warlick shuddered at the sight of her own house, its blue vinyl siding melted and twisted by the heat.

Wayne Chiveral, another neighbor, dialed 911 after spotting the flames, which spread at a ferocious pace.

"When I called, I said, 'There's 3-foot flames coming out the windows,' and before I hung up, I found they were 10 feet and they were coming out the roof already," he said.

Community offers support

The blaze drew dozens of neighbors into the streets of the quiet, close-knit community near Holabird Avenue.

Shivering outside the charred remains of the house, where Christmas decorations hung and a statue of the Virgin Mary stood, they did their best to console one another and offer support.

A nearby homeowner brought out fresh pots of coffee and cups.

Others launched a fund-raising drive.

Merchants offered clothes, furniture and flowers for the boy's funeral.

Some wept as firefighters pulled Thomas Micciche's body from a back bedroom in the home just after noon.

Others remembered the thin, brown-haired boy who loved to play on his backyard swing set, watch videotapes, and climb onto a pile of wood so he could wave to neighborhood children.

Anyone wishing to donate money to help the family cover funeral expenses and the loss incurred in the fire is asked to send a check or money order to: The John and Monica Micciche Fund, Provident Bank of Maryland, 39 Shipping Place, Baltimore 21222.

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