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Tragedy averted in fire

March 21, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART and ARNOLD S. PLATOUs

Tragedy was averted through the actions of two area residents Saturday afternoon after a child started a fire in his Hagerstown home while playing with a lighter, a fire official said.

As a result, the fire in the apartment building at 136 N. Potomac St. was put out quickly and none of the building's occupants was injured.

Afterward, Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Brian Pile praised the two men - David Riggleman, of Williamsport, and Kevin Posey, of Hagerstown. "Because of their actions, there was only minor damage," Pile said.

Riggleman, 43, said he and Posey were in the area shortly after 4 p.m. when another man ran by, shouting that somebody needed to call the fire department because there was a fire in the two-story apartment building.

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"We asked him if there was anybody in the building and he said, 'Yes,' and we took off running," said Riggleman, who was a volunteer firefighter years ago with both the Franklin Fire Co. and the Borough of Chambersburg in Pennsylvania.

When he and Posey reached the front of the building, Riggleman said, the door to the first-floor apartment was open and there was thick smoke in a bedroom and kitchen in the back.

Inside the apartment, he said, they saw a man, some children and a woman, who was apparently trying to carry a pitcher of water back to the fire.

After telling the people to leave, Riggleman said, he and Posey started to go toward a bedroom and kitchen where the smoke was thickest, but Riggleman became light-headed from the smoke and had to retreat. Posey went on back, found a mattress on fire and dragged it out of the apartment and into the street, Riggleman said.

"He said, 'Dave, you need to go back in,'" recalled Riggleman, who said he was already moving to re-enter the building because he, like Posey, was worried somebody might still be in the apartment.

"I didn't see anybody," Riggleman said. "Only thing was burning carpet."

Outside, Hagerstown firefighters had arrived. They quickly entered the apartment and doused the flames.

Riggleman said he and Posey suffered from smoke inhalation and were taken to Washington County Hospital. He said Posey also suffered minor burns on his hands. Both men were treated and released.

Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown investigated the cause of the fire and ruled that it was started by a 7-year-old boy playing with a lighter, city Fire Department Capt. Pile said.

"The boy, who was staying with his aunt, found the lighter and started the fire," Pile said.

Riggleman said he was glad to have been able to help. "We saved the dwelling, that we did. I'm not being egotistical. I just know this one could have been a lot worse."

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