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Eight homeless after duplex fire

December 13, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A family of eight was left homeless Tuesday morning when a fire ripped through their home in Hagerstown's South End, Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said.

The fire, reported at 5:23 a.m., started in the living room of the two-story duplex at 30 Garlinger Ave. when wooden crafts too close to a baseboard heater ignited, Assistant City Fire Marshal Rich Miller said.

It was the fourth fire in less than a week in the Tri-State area caused by improper use of heaters.

On Saturday, five people died in a Berkeley County, W.Va., fire caused by combustibles too close to a kerosene heater, and a Hagerstown family of five was left homeless after an electric heater left unattended ignited combustibles, fire officials have said.

Two adults and six children living at the Garlinger Avenue house were able to escape the blaze through the back door before firefighters arrived, Hawbaker said.

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"The male adult woke up to go to work, smelled smoke, came downstairs and the whole first floor was filled with smoke," Hawbaker said.

He said the fire blocked the front door to the home so the family escaped through the back door.

Miller said that by the time the man got outside and to the front of the house, flames were coming from the windows.

When crews arrived at the home, flames were "coming out of the front window" and were lapping near 28 Garlinger Ave., which firefighters soaked to prevent the fire from spreading, Hawbaker said.

Miller said two family birds died in the blaze.

The Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross has been working to help both Hagerstown families displaced by fires this week, said Cindy Blackstock, director of emergency services for the local chapter. Blackstock said both families are at local hotels.

Miller said the Garlinger Avenue home is uninhabitable. Structural damage was estimated at more than $30,000, he said. Miller said he did not have an estimate for the value of the home's contents. He said most of the items on the second floor seemed salvageable.

Mike Weller, the fire department's fire-prevention officer, said there was no operable smoke detector on the second story of the home.

Weller said combustibles, which are anything that can burn, can cause a fire if placed too close to any heating source.

"It is the common denominater in all of these cases," Weller said.

Blackstock said anyone interested in coordinating a gift drive for the families affected by the Hagerstown fires may call the local chapter of the Red Cross at 301-739-0717, ext. 205.

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