Two house fires in Anne Arundel injure four people, three critically

Blazes cause extensive damage

smoke-detector check launched

December 25, 2004|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Two separate fires in Anne Arundel County - one in Hanover, the other in Millersville - injured four people yesterday, three of them critically.

Fire officials believe electrical problems sparked both blazes, which caused extensive damage to the dwellings.

Smoke detectors apparently alerted residents to the Hanover fire, but authorities said there were no batteries in two detectors in the Millersville townhouse - a fact that prompted Anne Arundel fire officials to mount a Christmas Eve door-to-door campaign to check the smoke detectors in the neighborhood.

Firefighters were planning to hand out brochures to residents in the townhouse community last night, replace batteries in nonworking detectors and put the devices up in homes that have none, said Battalion Chief Lee Cornwell.

"It definitely could have made a difference had the smoke detectors worked," he said. "This time of year, we tell all citizens to please check your smoke detectors and make sure they're working."

In the Hanover fire, Lt. Russ Davies, a Fire Department spokesman, said family members were awakened by a smoke detector.

The presence of a working detector "kept this from being a more tragic circumstance than it already is," he said.

That blaze, which apparently started in the family garage, spread into the attached two-story home near Arundel Mills mall and left Roger and Jeanette Worley, both 57, suffering from severe burns and smoke inhalation, according to fire officials and a neighbor. Both were in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Their 33-year-old daughter, Isa Worley, was in guarded condition at the hospital.

"I just thank God everyone made it out alive," another daughter, Karen Freeman, 36, said yesterday outside the charred remains of the house her parents have lived in for more than two decades. Roger Worley, who has a heart condition and knee problems, is disabled and fell on his way out of the house, she said.

The family was supposed to spend Christmas Eve at Freeman's house in Glen Burnie.

"The best Christmas present for all of us is that everyone made it out," she said.

Anne Arundel fire officials were trying yesterday to pinpoint the origin of that blaze. Clyde White, Isa Worley's boyfriend, said he felt warmth coming from a space heater in the garage when he arrived home from work, about an hour before the 7 a.m. fire.

White, who lives with the Worleys, said he fell asleep on a couch, expecting to take Isa Worley to work in a few hours. Instead, he woke to hear her screaming that there was a fire, he said.

White, 42, said he opened the door to the garage and saw smoke and fire. He said he grabbed a bucket, filled it with water from the kitchen sink and threw it on the fire before running outside to spray the garage with water from a partially frozen hose.

By the time fire officials, alerted by neighbors, arrived on the scene, the Worleys and White were outside and the house, in the 1500 block of Gollum Road, was engulfed in flames, Davies said. It took the 62 firefighters who responded to the three-alarm fire more than a half-hour to control the blaze, he said.

The house was a total loss, he said, with damage estimated at more than $300,000. The heat from the fire also warped the siding on a neighboring house, causing about $5,000 in damage, Davies said.

In the Millersville fire, a neighbor's call reporting smoke coming from a second-story window brought firefighters to a townhouse in the 200 block of Nathan Way just after noon. They found William Gary Brown, 59, unconscious in an upstairs bedroom, Cornwell said.

Brown was taken to Bayview for treatment of smoke inhalation, Cornwell said. He was in critical condition, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Fire officials determined that the fire started in the basement but have not pinpointed the origin, Cornwell said.

That fire took about 20 minutes to control and caused about $55,000 in damage, he said.

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