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Woman who died in fire succumbed to heat of blaze

September 06, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - Discarded smoking materials in a mattress likely caused the fire that killed a woman in a vacant city building, the Hagerstown Fire Department announced Tuesday.

According to a toxicology report from the Maryland Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Lindsay Gene Haley, 27, had a blood alcohol level of 0.16 at the time of her death Aug. 25, the fire department said. The legal limit for driving is 0.08.

Haley was attempting to move a mattress toward the front window of 65-67 W. Franklin St., when she succumbed to the strong heat of the fire and died from internal burns, according to the fire department and Chief Gary Hawbaker.

She was found dead at about 1:45 a.m.

Haley, who had moved out of an apartment at 221 S. Prospect St., spent the night before the fire looking for a place to stay or somewhere to keep her belongings, former neighbors said.

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At 8 p.m. the previous night, the Hagerstown Police Department received a call about a disturbance at 221 S. Prospect St. When they arrived, they were told Haley, who was intoxicated, had left.

Police returned at about 9 p.m., after getting a call that Haley had returned. They told her that they would place her under arrest if she returned.

The building in which Haley died had no smoke detectors or sprinklers, and the fire was not detected until it had become so hot that the second-story windows broke, allowing oxygen to feed the flames, Hawbaker said

Investigators do not know how Haley got into the West Franklin Street building, Hawbaker said.

Haley became the second person to die in a fire in Hagerstown this year. In February, Linda Irene Ford, 58, died at 280 S. Prospect St. The fire that killed Ford was caused by improperly discarded cigarettes, Hawbaker said.

"Nationwide, that is always - usually - the leading cause of fire deaths. It may not be one of the leading causes of fires total, but it's always one of the leading cause of fire deaths," Hawbaker said.

According to Hawbaker, 73 people died in fires in Maryland last year. Twenty-three of the deaths occurred because of fires caused by careless smoking, he said.

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