Boy, 4, killed in house fire Family, neighbors, firefighters battle in vain to reach child

September 19, 1998|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

A heroic rescue attempt by his older brother and the frantic efforts of relatives, neighbors and firefighters could not save a 4-year-old boy who was killed yesterday afternoon when fire swept through the upper floor of a two-story home in southwestern Baltimore County.

Neighbors, many of them volunteer firefighters, and family members fought blinding smoke and flames but were unable to bring Scotty Tilghman to safety, fire officials said.

When firefighters arrived three minutes after the fire was reported at about 1 p.m. in the 3000 block of Alabama Ave. in Baltimore Highlands, they found the child's body in an upstairs closet.

"The neighborhood was just swarming with off-duty firefighters, but it happened so fast it just engulfed the second floor," said Mark Hubbard, a Baltimore County Fire Department battalion chief.

Scotty's 16-year-old brother, Josh Maynard, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center for treatment of smoke inhalation, Hubbard said. He was in serious condition last night, a nursing supervisor said.

The teen-ager tried to reach his brother, but the heat of the fire made it impossible, Hubbard said.

"He made it all the way to the second floor but was driven back," Hubbard said.

Family members who escaped the blaze stood in nearby yards and wept with neighbors in the small, working-class neighborhood as firefighters battled the flames.

The cause of the fire had not been determined last night.

"We were trying to turn the hoses on," said Kim Stringer, who lives across the street.

At least 6 in house

Hubbard said that when the fire broke out, at least six family members were in the house: Kathy Tilghman; her mother, Hazel Watson; her mother-in-law, Linda Short; and Tilghman's three sons, Scotty, Josh and an unidentified 17-year-old.

Neighbors said that as the flames tore through the upstairs, Tilghman and the two other women rounded up everyone they could find and got them out of the house.

But they couldn't find Scotty.

"They didn't find him the first time," said Stringer tearfully. "Ev- erybody's just devastated. It's really sad that baby had to die."

Hubbard said the child's death "hit the firefighters really hard."

When they got to the house, he said, family members told them the child was upstairs. "They went immediately to that spot, and it didn't do any good," Hubbard said.

Aid effort for family

By late yesterday afternoon, neighbors were trying to help the family, which had been given temporary shelter by the Red Cross.

"The house is uninhabitable right now," Hubbard said.

Fire officials estimated that the fire caused at least $30,000 in damage.

Stringer said Hazel Watson, Scotty's grandmother, had lived in the house for at least 20 years.

"She just paid her house off in May, and now this," Stringer said. She said she and others in the neighborhood would try to find a group or organization to help the family rebuild the bungalow.

Pub Date: 9/19/98

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