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Fire damages home, kills cat

January 29, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

CLEAR SPRING - A basement fire spread to the living room of a house on Gruber Road southeast of Clear Spring, causing damage and killing a cat Wednesday night.

Millie von Sternberg said she returned from an exercise class at about 9 p.m. when she saw smoke coming from the chimney of her house at 13226 Gruber Road. She said she opened a side door and saw a plume of smoke.

Still not aware the house was on fire, she said she walked around to the front door. When she opened it, the smoke was even thicker, she said.

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She said she ran to a neighbor's house and called for help.

Von Sternberg said she recently had spent money and effort to put in a bar, wood paneling and other improvements in the basement.

"All that hard work I slaved over," she said. "It caught me so off guard."

Bryan Welch, assistant chief of the Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Co., said it took roughly 20 minutes to knock down the flames. When the first units arrived, he said he sent three firefighters to attack the fire's source in the basement.

"Three minutes after we arrived on the scene, fire broke through the second floor," he said.

Welch said he ordered a second team into the living room area. He said the fire appears to have climbed the basement door and walls and eaten through the ceiling.

Von Sternberg said she found her cat in the basement just inside the door.

"She always stands out on the porch," she said. "She wanted to stay in the basement today."

Officials from the state Fire Marshal's Office were called to the scene and were investigating the cause of the fire at press time.

In addition to Clear Spring, units from Maugansville, Hancock, Williamsport, Halfway and Air Unit 25 responded to the fire.

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