Manchester man killed in two-alarm house fire

Woman in farmhouse evaluated at hospital

January 19, 2000|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

An elderly Manchester man died yesterday evening in a two-alarm fire at a house neighbors called "an accident waiting to happen."

Allen Gosnell, a spokesman for the state fire marshal's office, said the man's body was recovered from the back of a 2 1/2-story frame farmhouse shortly after 6 p.m.

An elderly woman who lived in the house was uninjured but was taken to Carroll County General Hospital in Westminster for evaluation, authorities said.

Authorities did not immediately identify the occupants.

Ronnie Hossler, a next-door neighbor in the 2800 block of Manchester Road, said he heard the woman screaming and rushed outside about 6 p.m. to see flames leaping from the farmhouse. The farmhouse abuts Route 27 at Westminster Street, outside Manchester town limits.

The woman was "outside and yelling for me to get [the man] out of the house, but there was just no way I could get through the flames and the smoke," Hossler said.

Hossler called 911, but said the woman apparently had called firefighters.

More than 50 firefighters responded. They were hampered by frigid temperatures. They also had to overcome trash, debris and old mattresses stuffed from floor to ceiling on the second floor.

As the blaze burst through the tin roof and side wall, fire authorities feared a collapse and signaled a brief retreat at 7: 15 p.m. They used long blasts from nearby firetrucks to alert firefighters to evacuate immediately. All personnel were accounted for.

Firefighters perched on a sun-porch roof had tossed debris from the second floor to the ground. The pile below was more than 6 feet high and twice as wide, containing mattresses, clothing and furniture.

Hossler, who has lived at his home since 1977, said the pair moved into the farmhouse five or six years ago.

"I've been trying to get county officials and social workers to do something about the situation next door for about three years," Hossler said. "The county ordered them to clean up all sorts of stuff they went out and collected brought home with them, but they just moved it inside.

"It's too bad county officials never got the situation resolved," he added. "The result is terrible, one dead man."

Gosnell said it would be hours before firefighters and fire marshals could leave the scene.

"We know from witnesses that the fire started toward the back of the house but it could be awhile before the cause is determined," he said.

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