4 area fires claim lives of 3 people Westminster blaze leaves 6 homeless

neighbors rescue Harford Co. family

December 21, 1997|By Larry Carson and Diana K. Sugg | Larry Carson and Diana K. Sugg,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Melody Simmons contributed to this article.

Quick action by neighbors saved a Harford County mother and four children from their burning townhouse yesterday, while three Westminster families were left homeless by a second blaze.

Meanwhile, a tightly knit Baltimore neighborhood struggled to cope with the deaths of two children and the serious injury of their foster father in a blaze Friday, and an elderly woman died in another fire in Southwest Baltimore.

In the Harford County fire, investigators said they believed the family was sleeping on the second floor of the brick townhouse at 416 Burnley Drive in Edgewood when the fire started in the kitchen about 9 a.m. Neighbors heard a commotion and shouting. Fire and flames shattered the first-floor windows. Smoke blew out of the second-story windows.

The mother, identified as Beverly Paulston, and her children were at the second-story windows screaming for help. Neighbors struggled to squeeze a love seat out their front door in a rescue effort.

"We said a prayer," said one woman who helped but did not want to be identified. "It went through. It was a miracle."

They hauled out the sofa and set it under a window of the burning house. With coaching from their mother and the neighbors, the children jumped, one by one. Then Paulston jumped.

Stacy Akins, 23, a neighbor, tried to calm Paulston. "She said, 'I worked so hard to give my kids a good Christmas,' " Akins recounted later. "She put every penny she had toward it."

Paulston was released after treatment for smoke inhalation at Maryland Shock Trauma Center. Her children -- Anthony, 14, Tyree, 13, and 4-year-old twins Russell and Altamese, were taken to Fallston General Hospital but had no serious injuries. A neighbor and a friend were treated at Fallston General, one for smoke inhalation and the other for stress.

In Southwest Baltimore, a 69-year-old woman was found dead in a fire at her home in the 1800 block of Wilkens Ave. Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman, said electricity to the house had been turned off, and the cause of the 1 a.m. blaze remained under investigation.

The woman's identity was not released pending notification of relatives.

Meanwhile, a small collection of stuffed animals and flowers lined the front porch of a rowhouse in the 300 block of Ilchester Ave., in the Harwood neighborhood east of Charles Village, where Pierre Avery, 7, and Lynette Round, 5, died Friday night.

The children were mourned by tearful neighbors and friends who gathered yesterday outside in the still-chilly morning sunlight in the street of two-story houses near Barclay School.

Daniel Lunn, 40, the children's foster father, was listed in critical condition at Shock Trauma, a hospital spokeswoman said. His wife, Veronica, and their two daughters, ages 16 and 12, were not at home when the fire started about 9 p.m. Friday, neighbors said.

Fire officials say the small, smoky blaze started in the middle upstairs bedroom. Lynette, who was severely disabled and used a wheelchair, was found dead on the floor in the rear bedroom, and Pierre was found dead in the front bedroom where Lunn was rescued by firefighters.

Pieces of a smoke detector and batteries were found in the debris, and authorities were uncertain whether the device had sounded.

Neighbors said they were devastated by the deaths, as 20 city firefighters led by Battalion Chief Lawrence Pulley went door to door in the area, distributing pamphlets on fire protection and offering to install free smoke detectors.

"It's hard to accept," said Sam Nelson, block captain for the Harwood Community Association, noting the Christmas season and the Lunns' reputation of caring deeply for children.

A tearful Wanda Wells, who lives next door, said the foster children had been with the Lunns for several years. Veronica Lunn was taking her daughters to meet an aunt who was planning to take the girls on a holiday trip to Walt Disney World when the fire started, she said.

In Westminster, six people were left homeless after a blaze reported at 1: 39 a.m. in a wood-frame house converted to three apartments in the 1000 block of Washington Road. Passing motorists, including a private ambulance crew, alerted and helped evacuate residents, according to the state fire marshal's office.

Pub Date: 12/21/97

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