Fires kill fewer in Maryland

February 02, 1997


Staff Writer

It will be months before Joyce and Barry Timmons can move back into their Mercersburg, Pa., area home, which was heavily damaged by fire on Christmas Eve.

Still, they consider themselves lucky to have survived.

In 1996, fires killed five people in the Tri-State area, one in Hagerstown, two in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia and two in the Chambersburg, Pa., area, fire marshals said.

So far in 1997, two people have died in area fires.

The Timmonses and their 20-year-old son, Barry Jr., were able to escape before a wood stove fire destroyed their ranch-style home on Garnes Road.


"I heard a noise. I thought it was the cat. About the same time, the smoke detector went off," Joyce Timmons said.

The family is living in a mobile home on their property while they rebuild. "It's material things,'' she said. "It's hard, but they can be replaced.''

The family's property was insured.

Also lucky to be alive are three generations of the Hebb family, who were hurt when a gasoline tank exploded Jan. 2.

Richard Hebb is recuperating at his Trovinger Mill Road home, said his wife, Evelyn. Their son James, 45, and their grandson, Scott, 18, were hospitalized but are also recovering.

"They're coming along. It's slow, but they're doing all right," Evelyn Hebb said.

Last year, the Tri-State area saw fewer fire deaths than some years in the recent past.

In 1994, Washington County alone lost five people to fire. The year 1993 was a bad one for Franklin County, Pa., which had six fire deaths in three months.

Maryland had the lowest number of fire deaths in 1996 since statewide tracking began in 1975, said W. Faron Taylor, deputy state fire marshal.

Sixty people in the state died in fires during 1996. The year before, 95 died in fires.

Taylor attributed the drop to more widespread use of fire detectors and fire safety legislation.

"These laws are some of the most progressive in the country," he said.

Although 1996 was a record low for Maryland, West Virginia had an unusually high number of fire deaths, said Assistant State Fire Marshal Mark Lambert.

There were 53 fire deaths in fiscal 1995-96 compared to 40 deaths in the two previous years, he said.

"It could be because we had such a bad winter last year," he speculated.

However, 1997 has been bad so far, with two deaths attributed to fires.

On Jan. 18, Gloria Garver of Waynesboro, Pa., was killed when a lighted cigarette sparked a fire that also critically injured her husband, Harry.

Michael Pennucci, 72, of Herkimer, N.Y., died Jan. 21 from injuries he received in a recreational vehicle fire the night before in Martinsburg, W.Va.

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