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Officials say fatal W.Va. house fire was accidental

February 10, 2006|by ROBERT SNYDER

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A fire that broke out in the home of a 98-year-old Martinsburg woman Wednesday night has been ruled an accident, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said Thursday.

The woman, identified by Games-Neely as Alma Miller, was found dead in the rear kitchen of her two-story brick house at 527 S. Raleigh St. by members of the Martinsburg Fire Department after firefighters responded to a call there about 8:23 p.m., said Capt. David Brining of the Martinsburg Fire Department.

Brining, who said he investigated the blaze, said the cause of the woman's death has not been determined, and officials will wait for the release of toxicology and autopsy reports from the state's chief medical examiner's office in South Charleston, W.Va.

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Brining said the fire originated in the kitchen and began as a result of a plastic container being left on a hot stove.

The fire, which was contained mostly to the kitchen and an adjacent room on the lower level of the house, took about 25 minutes to put out, Brining said.

On Thursday, the interior of the blackened back room of the house was visible through an opening in the north wall. More fire damage was visible at an open downstairs window, beneath which lay a pile of burned rubble along a sidewalk that leads to the property's backyard.

Brining, who estimated damage to the house at about $30,000, said a portion of the upstairs of the house also sustained minor damage in the blaze.

Brining said the woman appeared to be alone in the house at the time of the blaze.

Miller lived alone, according to a next-door neighbor, who said she had known the woman for about 10 years.

Heather Miller, who said she is no relation to the victim, said Thursday she and her husband were watching television Wednesday night unaware that a fire had broken out next door when they heard noise.

"We were in the back of the house when we heard thumping. We thought our daughter was out of bed, said Miller of 529 S. Raleigh St. "Now we realize it was firemen trying to get into the house."

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