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Death probed as fire-related

January 21, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

A 68-year-old Hagerstown man was found dead Friday morning in his apartment in what may be the first fire-related death in Hagerstown since 1997.

James Elmer Kline, who lived alone at 428 W. Antietam St., Apt. C, was found around 11:35 a.m. by his daughter and son-in-law, according to Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown.

"We will have to wait for autopsy results to determine if he was dead before he was burned," Brown said.

Authorities did not provide details on the nature or extent of Kline's burns.

No fire equipment was dispatched Friday morning; there was only an ambulance which alerted police when they found Kline's body in the apartment.

"Nothing in the apartment was burned," Brown said.

When no one answered the door, the son-in-law entered the apartment through a window and found Kline, Brown said.

Kline had been sitting in a chair, and it appeared he had been smoking a cigarette, Brown said. He was on the floor when he was discovered.

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"There is nothing suspicious, but we don't know whether he died as a result of the burns or if it was a medical problem that killed him," Brown said.

If the cause is confirmed as a fire death, it will be the first in Hagerstown since September 1997, according to Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker.

* George Eugene Maphis, 56, a wheelchair-bound man who suffered from multiple sclerosis, died in an early-morning fire that gutted his 727 Washington Ave. home Sept. 26, 1997.

Investigators were told Maphis had a habit of lighting his cigarettes from a gas burner on the kitchen stove, but it isn't known if that's what caused the fire which originated in the kitchen, Hawbaker said.

* On Sept. 16, 1996, Sharon Gossard died in a fire that fire marshals and insurance company investigators agreed started in the trash can in the kitchen of her 1 Leroy St. home.

In the rest of Washington County outside Hagerstown, there were two deaths in 1999 attributed to fire, according to Deputy State Fire Marshal Ted Meminger.

* On June 28 a man died as a result of fire caused when his car wrecked on the Mapleville Road.

* On Oct. 7 a man was found burned to death in a car in the southern part of Washington County.

Meminger said 1998 was marked by only one fire death, which occurred in late May at a Sycamore Drive home.

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