Fire kills 73-year-old Maryland City man in his trailer Batteries on smoke alarm were weak, officials say

October 24, 1997|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

A 73-year-old Maryland City man died early yesterday apparently trying to escape a fire in his trailer home. It was the third fire death this year in the county, and fire officials say it could have been avoided.

After they brought the single-alarm fire at James Reed's trailer in Parkway Village under control, firefighters found a smoke detector with batteries so weak it barely emitted a sound.

"Mr. Reed's chances of escaping his home would have been better" if his alarm had been working, said EMS/Fire/Rescue spokesman J. Gary Sheckells. "This points out the importance of having working smoke detectors with fresh batteries."

Fire officials said the deadly incident should serve as a reminder to residents to change the batteries in their smoke detectors.

One neighbor, a man who lived next door to Reed in the first block of Bruce St. South, smelled smoke about 5: 15 a.m. and pounded on Reed's door to try to get him out of the house. When Reed did not respond, the man called firefighters to the trailer park off Brock Bridge Road.

Smoke was pouring out of the windows and doors of the trailer when firefighters arrived, Sheckells said. Rescue crews forced open the front door and found Reed's body inside on the living room floor, he said.

"I could tell there was no hope," said Robert Loukota who lives across the street. "He was badly burned."

The firefighters carried the body outside to paramedics who tried unsuccessfully to revive Reed.

Fire investigators have not determined an official cause for the fire which destroyed the trailer and most of its contents, but suspect an electrical malfunction, Sheckells said.

Neighbors in the 40-year-old community described Reed as a good neighbor and a friendly man. He had lived in the white, single-width trailer on the narrow street for 26 years, a manager at Parkway Village said.

Reed worked as a cab driver in Prince George's County and enjoyed sports and sitting outside his home watching the neighborhood children play.

"I always called him 'Pops,' " Loukota said. "Its just a shame that it happened. He's definitely going to be missed."

Sheckells said firefighters will visit senior centers throughout the county this weekend, passing out information on smoke detectors and scheduling installation dates for those who need detectors. They will also go door to door in nearby neighborhoods to remind residents to change smoke detector batteries.

Pub Date: 10/24/97

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