Couple, child killed in Shore house fire

State fire deaths at 90 for year so far

December 17, 2007|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Sun Reporter

A Salisbury couple and a young child perished early yesterday in a fast-moving fire that destroyed their 1 1/2 -story frame home.

The fire brings to 90 the number of fire fatalities in Maryland this year, compared with 57 at this time last year.

"I've been around a long time, and I don't recall us ever having this many fire deaths," said Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo Jr.

The Salisbury Fire Department was alerted to the blaze at 514 Washington St. by a 911 call from a neighbor at 3:34 a.m.

Firefighters had the flames under control in 10 to 15 minutes, Zurolo said, but when they entered the structure they found all three occupants dead on the first floor.

"We know that the small child was found in a front room, on a bed, and the two adults were found in the living room," he said. It was not clear whether the couple was trying to escape.

The bodies were taken to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for identification and autopsies.

"We believe we know who they are, but until they're identified we're not going to release any information on that," Zurolo said. He said officials believe the man and woman were boyfriend and girlfriend and that the child, about 5 years old, was the woman's daughter.

The 1,300-square foot home was built in 1938, and was equipped with a smoke detector, Zurolo said. However, when rescuers arrived they did not hear an alarm sounding. The house was not equipped with a residential sprinkler system.

The fire appeared to have originated in an attic area over the kitchen, but the cause had not been determined, Zurolo said. The house was destroyed, and the damage was estimated at $200,000.

The last fatal fire on the Eastern Shore was Aug. 18. Three college students on a weekend getaway with friends died that morning when fire erupted in the 6,600-square-foot vacation home they were staying in on the Miles River near Easton. Four others escaped, thanks in part to an alert from smoke alarms.

There were no working smoke detectors at 1903 Cecil Ave. in Baltimore on May 22, where six people living in a crowded rowhouse died and seven others were injured in a fire.

On Dec. 6, two children died in Roland Park, and their father was critically injured, when fire broke out in their three-story brick home on Ridgewood Road. A sprinkler system had been disabled and smoke alarms were either out of order or failed to alert the family, fire officials said.

"It's important for the public to realize that if you have a smoke alarm in the house, you have to ensure the smoke alarms are working," Zurolo said. "That's your first line of defense."

"What's a battery cost? A buck and a half?" he asked. "People just forget about it. The philosophy is that `It can't happen to me.' ... We see that way too many times."

frank.roylance@baltsun.com

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