Blaze destroys Ellicott City home family of 5 follows exit drill to safety

April 12, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

A one-alarm fire razed a two-story Ellicott City home early yesterday, forcing a woman to climb down a rose trellis to escape, Howard County fire and rescue officials said.

The fire was detected by an 11-year-old boy who notified his parents, giving the family of five time to flee unharmed, said Battalion Chief Donald Howell, of the Howard fire and rescue team.

"The fire was heavy, coming from the roof and the windows," Chief Howell said. "The family had obviously practiced in-house fire drills. That accounts for the happy ending as far as no [personal] injuries occurring."

A garage and portions of the home's charred outer walls were all that remained of the single-family home in the 3100 block of Cascades Court in the Pine Orchard Meadows development yesterday afternoon. The loss included $200,000 in structural damage and $50,000 in contents.

Left homeless by the blaze were the residents, John Laun, his wife, Linda, and their three children, John Jr., 12; Matthew, 11; and Julie, 9. The family, which was staying with relatives in Catonsville yesterday, could not be reached for comment.

Two family pets, a cat and a dog, perished in the fire, according to officials.

"It was a big fire," said Mi Lee, who lives two houses down from the ruined house. "Everybody woke up."

According to fire officials, the Laun family was asleep in the early morning hours yesterday when Matthew, awakened by "popping sounds" from the outside deck, got out of bed and told his parents.

The two adults saw fire outside the house and gathered their children. While Mr. Laun fled with the children, his wife called "911" from an upstairs telephone. By the time she hung up, smoke and fire had clouded the stairwell she intended to use, Chief Howell said.

The woman then climbed through a second-floor window and crawled onto a first-floor porch roof, where she planned to wait for help.

"Time was of the essence," Chief Howell said. "Fire conditions continued to escalate until finally she thought it wasn't in her best interest to stay there."

Finally, the woman climbed down a rose trellis to safety. She suffered minor scratches but did not need hospital treatment, fire officials said.

Twelve fire units and 30 fire personnel from the Bethany, Ellicott City, West Friendship and Banneker stations responded to the blaze at 5:07 a.m.

Emergency workers began with a "defensive attack," the chief explained, to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes.

Firefighters then used hoses to tame the blaze, which was under control by 6:56 a.m. and out by 9:30 a.m., Chief Howell said.

All units had left the scene by 10:15 a.m., but the state fire marshal still was investigating the cause of the fire last night.

Smoke detectors were installed in the home, but were of no use because the fire apparently started on the outside of the home, said Al Ward, deputy chief state fire marshal.

"They didn't play a role," Deputy Chief Ward said, adding that the family "was out of the house by the time the smoke detectors activated."

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