Three children killed in fire

Cecil County blaze injures infant

adults, another child escape

Mobile home destroyed

January 27, 2002|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

CONOWINGO - An early-morning fire yesterday at a mobile home in this Cecil County community killed three children - two boys and a girl - and left a 3-month-old boy in the hospital with second-degree burns.

Four adults and another child, age 4, were able to escape the fire in the three-bedroom trailer in the 100 block of Conowingo Lake Road without injury, fire officials said.

The children who died were identified as 22-month- old Blake Rominger, son of Melissa Hoberg, 23; and two children spending the night, Edward Ross McFadden Jr., 8; and his sister, Jessica Renee McFadden, 5, said Chief Deputy Bob Thomas of the state fire marshal's office.

Hoberg said the fire started when she accidentally knocked over a candle, said Lisa Fender, her landlord. Hoberg and her boyfriend, Matthew Britton, tried to douse the fire but it quickly spread, Thomas said.

"It's terrible. ... I can't believe all these children died," Fender said. "Melissa and Matt are pretty much devastated. She seemed like a good mom. I couldn't imagine having to go through that."

The McFadden children were family friends from Nottingham, Pa., about 10 miles away, who had been spending the night, Thomas said.

The injured 3-month-old, Logan Hoberg, was taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center with second-degree burns of the head and face. He was expected to be released today, Thomas said.

Britton was able to get the baby, who was in a bassinet, and Hoberg's daughter, Adrian, out of the bedroom safely, Thomas said. Flames and smoke prevented him and Hoberg from getting to the other three children in an adjacent bedroom at the center of the trailer, he said. Their bodies were found lying in the same bed.

Another couple who also were overnight guests crawled out the windows of a bedroom at the rear of the trailer after they were alerted to the fire, Thomas said.

Fire officials said the first units arrived within 10 minutes of the 911 call at 5:12 a.m. and found the mobile home engulfed in flames.

Thomas said the official cause of the fire is undetermined. "We're not going to rush to judgment," he said. "We never do on a fatal."

The rented mobile home, which was destroyed, is at Conowingo Lake Farms, where Fender raises and boards thoroughbred horses.

The trailer sits off a private drive that runs about a quarter-mile from Conowingo Lake Road and is about 200 yards from Fender's house.

Fender said that Hoberg told her she lit a candle in her bedroom to avoid switching on a light while her boyfriend dressed for work because she didn't want to wake her infant son. She said the candle fell on a comforter.

"Melissa told me that she knocked a candle over," Fender said. "She kept saying, `I'm sorry.' "

Fender said Britton, Hoberg and her children had been living at the trailer for about three months. Fender said she let tenants stay in the trailer, utilities included, in exchange for about two hours' help each day cleaning horse stalls.

She said that Britton was trying to find some way to get back into the trailer to rescue the children before firefighters arrived. "It was totally engulfed. Nobody was getting in there," Fender said.

Thomas, the chief deputy, said three smoke alarms were in the 14-foot by 70-foot mobile home but they were either not working or lacked batteries. Fender said she supplied batteries for the smoke alarms to her tenants.

Thomas said that the tragedy might have been averted if - instead of trying to put out the fire - quicker action had been taken to evacuate everyone and call 911.

He said fires spread especially quickly in the confined spaces of a mobile home.

Thomas said it took firefighters about 40 minutes to extinguish the blaze, which caused about $40,000 in damage to the building and its contents.

About 50 firefighters from Cecil and Harford counties and Lancaster County, Pa., responded to the blaze, he said.

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