Woman severely burned in fire

December 01, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

The daughter of a Smithsburg woman who was found bludgeoned to death in her home last month was severely burned Sunday morning when fire engulfed the left side of the apartment building where she lived.

Brenda L. Hitt was listed in critical condition at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., Sunday night. She was burned when a fire swept through her first-floor apartment at 39 E. North Ave. in Hagerstown at 10:35 a.m.

The cause of the fire had not been determined as of Sunday night, but it looked as if it started in Hitt's living room, located on the left side of the two-story gray house, Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Justin Mayhue said.


"She was the only one who knew what was going on in there," he said.

Hitt's mother, Shirley P. Finfrock, was found bludgeoned to death in her 22128 Holiday Drive home in Smithsburg on Nov. 12. No arrests have been made in her mother's death.

About 30 Hagerstown Fire Department firefighters responded to the fire Sunday morning and got it knocked down in about 20 minutes, Mayhue said.

David Moyer, who lives in the apartment next to Hitt's, said he pulled her from her apartment. Moyer, 45, said he and his 12-year-old daughter were alerted to the blaze by the smoke detector in his apartment and by the sound of Hitt's screams.

"I done busted through the door and dragged (Hitt) halfway out (into the hall) and then I dragged her on the porch," he said.

Moyer said he burned his hands pulling Hitt from the apartment.

Shane Lawani, 47, who lives across the street from Hitt, said she was in her pajamas watching television in her apartment when she heard a woman screaming.

At first she thought it was a domestic dispute, Lawani said. Then she looked out her window and saw Roy Miller, a resident of the 39 E. North Ave. apartment building, pacing on its front porch next to what appeared to be a body, she said. And, she said, she saw smoke coming from the building.

"It kicked in, 'you gotta help,'" she said.

Lawani said she got dressed and ran across the street. She said she saw smoke coming from the building and flames shooting from inside Hitt's apartment, where Lawani lived three years ago.

She said there were more than 20 people on the street using their cell phones, trying to call for help.

Lawani said she stayed with Hitt until a Community Rescue Service ambulance arrived at the scene.

"The ambulance got here in like 15 minutes, but to me it felt like a day," she said.

Lawani said the fire stayed inside the house until a window to Hitt's apartment was broken and flames shot out.

"When the engines pulled up, all the windows started to break," she said.

Hitt's upstairs neighbor, Miller, said he was on the Internet when he saw smoke in his apartment. His apartment was "black from top to bottom" after the fire, he said.

Miller said Hitt works part time as a special education assistant at an area school.

"She was real nice, real sweet," he said.

His wife, Barbara Miller, 34, said Hitt "loved to cook and loved kids."

"She never complained about nothing," Moyer said.

"She'd help anyone," Miller said.

He said Hitt had a couple of cats that survived the blaze.

Randy Nigh, 39, who lived in an apartment in the building, was rescued by firefighters who took his air conditioner out and pulled him onto the back porch, he said.

Nigh's apartment and Moyer's apartment, both on the right side of the house, appeared from the outside to be untouched by the blaze except for broken windows. Through missing windows of Hitt's and Miller's apartments could be seen charred wooden ceiling beams and black-coated walls.

Neighbors said Hitt was Finfrock's daughter. Finfrock's obituary listed as a survivor daughter Brenda L. Hitt.

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