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Firefighters rescue family from burning house

October 30, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

HALFWAY - Firefighters early Wednesday rescued four members of a family from a second-story roof where they had been driven by smoke, officials said.

The house at 11207 Greenmount Ave. had no smoke alarms, but one of Brendan McMullen's children woke up and alerted the family, officials said.

Lt. Gary Hoffman Jr., who was the incident commander for the Halfway Volunteer Fire Co., said he pulled onto Greenmount Avenue shortly after 5 a.m.

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"The first thing I saw was heavy smoke in the street," he said. "I stopped and looked up and saw a family of four on the porch roof above."

Hoffman said smoke was billowing out of the house.

"It was scary there for a moment," he said. "I thought, `It's not good.'"

But McMullen, his pregnant wife and two young children were brought down from the roof which ran beneath a bedroom window.

Halfway Chief Joe Kroboth III said firefighters extended a ladder to the bedroom window.

Halfway ambulance personnel examined family members at the scene but nobody required treatment, he said.

Kroboth said the fire likely ignited from smoldering ashes in a pit in the basement underneath the first-floor fireplace. The fire spread into the walls and began to climb toward the first floor.

"They were extremely lucky because the fire was developing in the basement and was making its way up the stairs," he said.

Added Hoffman: "It wouldn't have been too much longer."

The house in which the family had lived since March sustained estimated damage of $8,000 to $10,000, Kroboth said. Damage from the fire was limited, but he said firefighters had to cut away much of the wall in the basement and the floor boards to make sure the fire was out.

Smoke damage was heavy throughout the first and second floors, Kroboth said.

Kroboth said McMullen fell asleep on the couch in the living room on the first floor Tuesday night. When he awoke at about 1 a.m., everything was fine and we went up to bed, he said.

About four hours later, his daughter smelled smoke and woke up her parents. Hoffman said people often sleep through smoke until it is too late.

Kroboth said firefighters installed a smoke detector before they left.

The McMullens contacted the American Red Cross and stayed elsewhere Wednesday night.

"We offered to assist them At this point, I'm still waiting to hear from them," said Cynthia Kline, director of emergency services for the agency.

Kroboth said people should regularly clean fireplaces and ash pits to make sure loose particles do not catch fire. He recommended having chimneys swept annually.

Fire companies from Funkstown and Williamsport assisted along with Washington County Civil Defense and Washington County Air Unit.

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