Firefighters rescue family from unit near blaze Natives of China trapped in apartment by flames

August 03, 1998|By Joe Mathews and Richard Irwin | Joe Mathews and Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County firefighters rescued a trapped and frightened family from their Arbutus apartment yesterday as smoke and flames from a kitchen fire in the unit across the hall threatened to overcome them.

One member of the Chinese family was admitted for observation at a local hospital and the others refused medical treatment, said Capt. Michael Robinson, a Fire Department spokesman. A Baltimore firefighter was treated at the scene for heat exhaustion, he said.

Robinson said the one-alarm fire at the Meadow Lane Apartments in the 4300 block of Alan Drive was reported at 1: 37 p.m. and was caused by unattended food on a lighted stove.

"When the woman who lived across the hall entered her kitchen," Robinson said, "she found flames had spread from the stove, ignited wooden cabinets above the stove and quickly spread throughout the kitchen."

Minutes later, the dining and living rooms were engulfed by flames, he said.

Police said the woman, Halloluwage Hewawasam, 22, fled her apartment uninjured.

Jin Ying, an occupant of the apartment across from the burning dwelling, called 911 after smelling smoke. Within seconds, flames blocked the door of her second-floor apartment, Robinson said.

About five minutes later, at least 30 firefighters manning about a dozen pieces of apparatus from county stations at Arbutus, Violetville, Westview, Lansdowne, English Consul, Catonsville and Halethorpe and a Baltimore City station responded, Robinson said.

Though struggling to understand the Mandarin-speaking family, firefighters set up ladders so the family could exit through rear windows, Robinson said.

Rescued were: Jin; her husband, Yu Yunkai, 34; their 20-month-old daughter, Jessica; and Jin's father, Fuqi, and mother, Shufang. Shufang, 62, was taken to St. Agnes HealthCare in Baltimore for observation.

Yu, a native of Liaoning province who came to the United States two years ago to do pharmacology research at the University of Maryland, waited outside the apartment all afternoon in hopes that his immigration papers would be saved.

They were.

The family's apartment suffered heavy smoke damage, and they will be able to return shortly, fire officials said.

Robinson said the damage to the apartment where the fire started was estimated at $50,000. The fire was under control at 2 p.m.

Pub Date: 8/03/98

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