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Apartment fire leaves one dead

February 27, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

A 23-year-old woman died and a man was injured Thursday afternoon in a fire that broke out in their apartment on Roxbury Road in Southampton Township, Pennsylvania State Police in Franklin County said.

Jennifer Leigh Helman was pronounced dead at Chambersburg Hospital at 4:40 p.m., police said. Todd Michael Helman, 37, was treated for smoke inhalation at the hospital and released, police said.

The two were sleeping in their second-floor apartment at 905 Roxbury Road when the bed caught on fire, police said. The fire appeared to have been caused by a lighted candle that was in a glass ashtray on the bed, police said.

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West End Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Randy O'Donnell said the fire was called in by a passer-by at 3:54 p.m. and firefighters arrived at the Gro-Mar Apartments at 905 Roxbury Road three minutes later.

"We had reports of entrapment of an occupant on the top balcony," he said.

Heavy smoke was coming from the second-floor apartment and a man was on the balcony when the first units arrived, O'Donnell said.

Firefighters used ladders to get the man off the balcony at 4:01 p.m. The man told them someone else was in the apartment, and two minutes later a second person was taken from a back bedroom, according to O'Donnell.

The man on the balcony was taken to Chambersburg Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, O'Donnell said. The person taken from the bedroom was unconscious and was taken to Chambersburg with "life-threatening" burns and smoke inhalation, he said.

State Police Fire Marshal Stanford Sydnor said the investigation was focusing on the back bedroom as the point of origin for the fire.

O'Donnell said only two people were found inside.

Police said the fire was contained to the bedroom.

The fire was brought under control within about 12 minutes, O'Donnell said. He estimated that about a dozen units from the West End, Cumberland Valley Hose, Vigilant Pleasant Hall and Fayetteville fire companies responded to the fire.

There was no working smoke detector in the apartment, he said.

Police said an autopsy on Jennifer Helman was to be conducted today at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

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