Officials believe heater led to fatal fire

December 11, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

MARLOWE, W.VA. - Investigators believe that David "Spider" Clark Jr., one of five people killed early Saturday in a mobile home fire in Sportsman's Paradise, was trying to save three children in the home after the blaze started at 1:30 a.m.

No one in the mobile home at 60 Magruder Ave. survived.

Clark, 40, was found in the home's bathroom, investigators said Sunday.

"We believe he was trying to get them (the children) and got disoriented," assistant state Fire Marshal Ed Robinson said.

Investigators believe combustibles too close to a kerosene heater led to the blaze, Lt. Gary Harmison of the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department said.

The kerosene heater was in a bedroom where David Clark, 10, Eyrn Clark, 5, and Kimberlee Fravel, 18 months, were sleeping, Harmison said.


It is believed that clothes were too close to the heater or that a blanket might have been kicked off a bed and landed next to the heater, Harmison and Robinson said.

The bedroom, where the children were found, was very small and crowded, Robinson said.

Sheri McFillen Clark, 36, David Clark Jr.'s wife, was found in the living room where the couple slept, Harmison said.

David and Eyrn Clark were David Clark's children. Kimberlee Fravel was Sherri Clark's granddaughter. Crissanda Fravel, Kimberlee's mother, was at work at the time of the fire.

Three dogs and three cats also died, relatives said.

Relatives identified the victims, but investigators said Sunday that they had not made positive identification of the deceased. That might have to be determined using DNA, Harmison said.

Sportsman's Paradise is a group of homes along the Potomac River off Broad Lane in northern Berkeley County.

The five deaths stunned people in the community, and a crowd of neighbors and family members gathered near the home Sunday afternoon.

David Wolford said he went to the burning mobile home in an attempt to help the victims, but he was driven back by the heat and smoke.

"It's been devastating on everybody. He was a good man, an excellent man," Wolford said, referring to David Clark Jr.

John Fravel, Crissanda Fravel's father, said the biggest challenge facing the family is paying for the funerals of the victims.

The Red Cross is accepting donations to help the family pay for the funerals and has set up an account to collect money, Red Cross spokesman Tony Coffey said.

Coffey said checks can be made out to the Red Cross and sent to the organization at 205 E. King St., Martinsburg, WV 25401. For questions about donations, the Red Cross can be contacted at 304-263-5241.

Heater safety tips

Fire officials believe a Saturday morning mobile home fire in Sportsman's Paradise that killed five people was caused by a kerosene heater that was placed too close to clothes or a blanket.

To prevent fires caused by space heaters, officials with the state Fire Marshal's office and the Martinsburg Fire Department are emphasizing that users follow these guidelines:

· Follow the manufacturer's instructions about how much clearance should be allowed around heaters. In most cases, at least three feet of clearance is suggested.

· Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in buildings where heaters are used.

· Follow suggested maintenance, such as replacing wicks. Generally, wicks should be replaced annually, but possibly more frequently depending on use.

· Fill heaters outside and make sure they are filled with kerosene and not gasoline.

· Use in a well-ventilated area.

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