Blaze critically injures woman, 65

Early-morning house fire leaves her severely burned

Husband, daughter also hurt

Ellicott City

August 25, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

A fire raged through an Ellicott City home yesterday morning and injured three people, including a woman who suffered burns over half her body and remained in critical condition, authorities said.

Fire officials said three people were home when the fire started, and all managed to escape before rescue workers arrived. Fire units from Howard and Baltimore counties responded to a 911 call at 3:46 a.m. and brought the fire under control in about 20 minutes, a Howard fire department spokesman said.

Ian T. Hill, 71, and Josephine R. Hill, 65, and their daughter, Deborah Hill, 38, were in the home in the 2800 block of Dana Court when smoke alarms alerted them to the fire, according to a relative, family friends and neighbors.

They were taken to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center burn unit in East Baltimore, where Ian Hill was listed in fair condition and Josephine Hill in critical condition. Bill Mould, spokesman for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services, said the wife had suffered burns on about 50 percent of her body.

The Hills' daughter was treated and released, a hospital spokeswoman said.

A firefighter was also injured, treated at Howard County General Hospital, and released yesterday morning, Mould said.

Fire investigators believe the fire started on the first floor, said Mould, but are investigating its cause.

The first and second floors were damaged by smoke and flames - with charred wood and melted vinyl siding evident - and the fire appeared to have spread to the attic.

Mould said a "pretty good-sized hole" had been burned in the first floor.

Ian Hill was awakened by an alarm and went downstairs to check on his wife, according to Diane Schienle, another daughter.

She said that her father found the fire in the living room, where Josephine Hill had been sleeping in a hospital bed because her health had worsened recently. An oxygen tank was kept near the bed, Schienle said.

Deborah Hill, who was sleeping in a basement apartment, heard the alarm, came upstairs and called 911, and they all left the house, she said.

In saving his wife, Ian Hill suffered burns while attempting to snuff out flames that had spread on and around her body, Mould said.

Schienle was grateful that her father had heard the smoke alarm because his hearing is poor, she said.

"My father heard the alarm and so did my sister, and they came and got my mom and got her out," Schienle said. "We're just trying to figure out what to do next."

Investigators estimated property damage at $325,000. It was unclear what role - if any - the oxygen tank kept by Josephine Hill's bed in the living room played in the fire.

Philip Kammerman, 74, a friend of the Hills who lives nearby, stopped by the house with his wife yesterday, seeking information on the Hill family.

"We're devastated," he said.

Kammerman said that he and Ian Hill had worked together as engineers at Westinghouse for decades before their retirement, and that Ian met Josephine at Westinghouse, where she had been a secretary.

"They have a lot of people who care about them," he said.

Jennifer Lam, 21, a college student who lives with her parents in the neighborhood, said their families "are pretty close as neighbors."

She was awakened in the early morning by her father, who told her about the fire at the Hills' home across the street.

She remembers the couple helping her with school projects while she was growing up.

The Hills were "just really nice, really willing to lend a helping hand, warm and welcoming," she said.

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