Fire blamed on blanket covering cord

April 23, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, PA. - A Washington Township woman and her daughter lost their belongings and their home Friday in a late morning fire blamed on accidental causes.

Hanna Weber, the owner of the house, and her daughter, Margaret, believed to be around 12, according to a neighbor, were home at the time the fire broke out behind a sofa in the living room.

Weber declined to be interviewed.

Several other children were in the home at the time, but everyone, including the family cocker spaniel, left the house safely, said Sgt. Vernon Ashway of the Washington Township Police Department, who also serves as the township's fire marshal.


The house is at 11380 Hearthwood Drive in the Woodcrest subdivision off Mentzer Gap Road.

Ashway said the fire was caused when a blanket fell off the back of the sofa and landed on a coiled extension cord. He said heat from the cord built up under the blanket and eventually burst into flames.

Washington Township police officers were the first on the scene responding to a report of an odor of smoke in the house.

The officers entered the house, saw no evidence of fire on the first floor and checked upstairs. By the time they came back down, fire had erupted in the living room, said John Fleagle, chief of Blue Ridge Fire and Rescue in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa.

Fleagle said the call came in at 11:59 a.m.

"By the time we got here, there was heavy fire coming out of the windows," Fleagle said. Conditions inside the house were so hot, plus the fact that all occupants were safely out and accounted for prompted Fleagle to prohibit firefighters to enter the house.

"I ordered it fought from the outside," he said.

The interior of the two-story frame house was gutted. Vinyl siding and shutters melted on the sides of the building. The roof was scorched, but otherwise seemed intact except for a hole cut into it by firefighters to get at the flames.

Only the two-car attached garage and its contents of tools, a bike, freezer and some exercise equipment appeared unscathed.

Jill Kessler, a neighbor across the street at 11415 Hearthwood Drive, said she believes Weber's home was built the same year as hers, 1989.

Kessler said Weber was planning to get married and move out of her house, a claim confirmed by Weber, who said her home was going to be put up for sale.

Flats of pansies waiting to be planted sat by what was left of the front door of Weber's house. The year's growth of hosta was beginning to pop out of the ground on the side of the home. A small concrete slab with the names of Hannah and Margaret dated June 2000 was set in the ground alongside the driveway.

Kessler, who was moving among firefighters handing out coffee, said hers is a friendly neighborhood where people know each other and get along.

Units responded from Franklin and Adams counties in Pennsylvania and Frederick and Washington counties in Maryland.

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