House is badly damaged in Saturday night blaze

January 11, 1994|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

A family of five was burned out of their Mount Airy home Saturday.

Firefighters from six departments in Carroll, Frederick, Montgomery and Howard counties responded to the three-alarm fire at 6619 Runkles Road at 8:46 p.m., said Doug Alexander, first assistant chief at the Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company.

Crystal and Jessica Embrey, ages 15 and 13 respectively, were at home with five of their friends when a smoke alarm sounded. After discovering the fire in the lower level of the house, the teens called 911 and went to a neighbor's home.

The teens' parents, Glenn and Geraldine Embrey, both 36, were away from home with their youngest child, Jason, 9, when the fire broke out. Family members were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Members of the state fire marshal's office said the fire was caused by an electric space heater in the lower level of the house igniting combustable material nearby.

"Mount Airy and Lisbon [fire departments] responded and found fire coming out of the windows and doors of the front and one side of the house," Mr. Alexander said.

For four hours, about 75 firefighters battled the flames in subfreezing temperatures and high winds. It took about two hours to get the fire under control, he said.

"We had to lay 2,000 feet of hose [from a pond to the house]," Mr. Alexander said. "We had to fight icy roads to get down there, wait on a specific pumper to nose into the pond and cut a hole in the ice.

"It wasn't that difficult, it was just time-consuming to get the water. We were working from booster tanks, so we never did run out of water."

The subsequent alarms were called primarily to bring out more firefighters, he said.

"We rotate the personnel as much as we can, so we don't have anyone get sick from hypothermia or frostbite," Mr. Alexander said.

"It's a tough thing to do because when the fire's going, you're standing there and sweating and when it dies down, you're standing there in the cold wind. It doesn't take much to bleed the heat from you."

No one was hurt in the fire, Mr. Alexander said.

"No injuries, amazingly enough," he said. "One of the things we worried about was that it was on a very steep hill that was so slick and so icy. We're very fortunate somebody didn't fall and get hurt."

Firefighters estimated $200,000 in damage to the 3,000-square-foot structure and $50,000 in damage to the house's contents, he said. The entire house suffered severe fire damage, along with heavy heat and smoke damage, the fire marshal's office said.

"It was very beautiful," Mr. Alexander said of the home. "I wouldn't say it was completely destroyed, but heavily damaged. They have better than half of the house to start building from."

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