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Girl praised for fire safety knowledge

July 21, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

An 11-year-old girl who safely escaped her smoke-filled home Sunday afternoon with her 3-year-old sibling was praised by Hagerstown fire officials.

"She was so calm," said Mike Weller, Hagerstown fire educator. "I asked her where she learned what to do and she said at school and from her parents."

An explosion sparked by vapors from a gasoline can coming in contact with a nearby gas water heater caused the fire that damaged a double house at 25-27 West Side Ave. Sunday afternoon.

Upstairs in a bedroom, the 11-year-old heard the smoke detector go off, grabbed the toddler and headed downstairs, Weller said.

"She encountered a lot of smoke and couldn't get to the main escape door so she got down low and headed for another door," Weller said.

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Once outside, she stayed there with the child and alerted Harry Keys who was in the yard.

A total of three children in the 25 West Side Ave. side escaped unharmed, according to Hagerstown Fire Marshal John Hersh who investigated the 2 p.m. fire.

Keys was in the back yard cutting weeds with a gasoline-powered trimmer when the explosion occurred, Hersh said.

Carolyn Duhamel also resided in the house, which sustained heavy fire damage on the basement stairs, Hersh said.

The rest of 25 West Side Ave. and all of 27 West Side sustained light smoke damage, he said.

"Once the power is restored, the 25 West Side Ave. side should be liveable," Hersh said Wednesday morning. But that may take a while because much of the electrical system was damaged by the fire.

Dale Conley, owner of the double, said he didn't have a damage estimate yet.

Weller said Conley was working on the electrical system so the house could be reoccupied.

"The owner exceeded code with operational electric smoke detectors on both floors," Weller said.

Conley was insured, but the Keys/Duhamel family had no renter's insurance, Hersh said.

The family was moved to a room at the Super 8 by the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

"We responded to the fire scene immediately and arranged housing for the family," said Cindy Kline of the Red Cross. Meals also are being provided until the family can find another place to live or can get back into their home.

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