Woman's smoking caused apartment fire

Cigarette ignited blaze as she slept, say officials

November 17, 1999|By Devon Spurgeon | Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

Careless smoking was the cause of the blaze early Monday that killed a 56-year-old woman and burned out five apartments in a Glen Burnie complex, Anne Arundel County EMS/Fire/Rescue officials said yesterday.

The victim, identified as Carolyn Joyce, died in the fire at the Woodhill Apartments. Authorities said she apparently fell asleep while smoking in the living room of her ground-floor apartment. It was destroyed, as were the units on the two floors above hers.

Joyce's mentally disabled son, described as in his early 30s, called 911 to report the fire. He escaped without injury, according to Capt. Allan Graves, a fire department spokesman.

The call was received at 2: 26 a.m. Monday, and Graves said the man had a hard time articulating what was happening. "What he saw and went through was very traumatic," Graves said.

The son, whose name was not divulged, was reported to be staying with relatives.

Firefighters arrived minutes after the call to find flames engulfing the three-story apartment building, and smoke billowing from the roof. More than 50 firefighters battled the blaze, which was declared under control at 3: 52 a.m.

Thirty families were evacuated during the fire, but most were able to return by yesterday. Damage was estimated at $525,000 -- $350,000 to the building and $175,000 in personal belongings.

"The apartments which were damaged will take months to rebuild," said Michael Rosen, chief operating officer of Town & Country Properties, which owns the complex near Route 100.

It was the second major fire in the Baltimore area linked to smoking in a week. The fire Nov. 9 that scorched a historic block in Ellicott City was attributed to a restaurant worker's cigarette.

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