Christmas Eve fires displace families

December 26, 2000|By MARLO BARNHART

Christmas Eve fires displace families

Several families in and around Hagerstown were displaced from their homes by two Christmas Eve fires.

At 12:38 a.m. Sunday, firefighters from five area companies responded to 20532 Trovinger Mill Road for a fire that caused $80,000 damage to the single-family home occupied by William Eugene Gutteridge Jr.

In an effort to put out the fire, Gutteridge sustained second- and third-degree burns on his feet and hands, said Allen Gosnell, spokesman for the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

Community Rescue Service took Gutteridge to Washington County Hospital where he was treated for his burns. A check with the hospital Tuesday revealed Gutteridge had been discharged.


Gosnell said unattended candles in the basement television room were responsible for the fire, which brought 50 firefighters from Leitersburg, Smithsburg, Long Meadow, Maugansville and Funkstown to the scene.

The last unit left at 5:05 a.m. Sunday.

The second fire broke out at 10:08 a.m. on Christmas Eve, and Hagerstown Fire Captain Brian Pile said it could have been a real Christmas tragedy.

Two children, ages 3 and 5, were inside 611 N. Prospect St. at 10:08 a.m. Sunday when a fire broke out, Pile said. The cause is under investigation.

"Their father was outside working on the holiday lights and when he went to the front door, he was met by a wall of smoke," Pile said Tuesday.

Running around to the back, the father encountered a locked door but as he was getting ready to break it down, one of the children unlocked it, Pile said.

The father got the two children safely out of the house, which was gutted by the fire, Pile said.

"Flames were blowing out three sides of the double house when we pulled up," he said.

The 611 N. Prospect St. portion of the building was destroyed while there was some smoke and fire damage to the 609 N. Prospect St. side. That fire rekindled several times due to windy conditions.

The Rev. Mark Guy, pastor of the nearby First Church of God at 619 N. Prospect St., said the double house was occupied by six members of the extended Kelbaugh family.

"We are taking up donations here at the church for the families," Guy said. The church began a fund-raising effort immediately after the fire broke out and has agreed to serve as a conduit to the family.

Monetary donations can be mailed to the family via the church at PO Box 206, Hagerstown, MD 21741-0206. For more information, call 301-733-9260.

The American Red Cross chapter in Washington County sent representatives to both fires on Sunday and arranged accommodations at an area motel until other arrangements could be made, according to Cindy Kline.

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