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Firefighter, homeowner injured in Berkeley County fire

November 03, 2007

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A woman escaped serious injury Friday when an electric-powered fireplace apparently caused a blaze that caused about $250,000 in damage to her Berkeley County home, fire department officers said.

Mary James, 76, of 13435 Apple Harvest Drive, was treated for smoke inhalation at City Hospital in Martinsburg, said Rusty Morgan, deputy chief of the South Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department.

Cody Hollingsworth, a part-time responder with the Berkeley County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, was treated at the hospital for a left knee strain and released, Morgan said.

Morgan said firefighters were dispatched to the ranch-style brick home at 1:07 p.m., and found James had left the home before they arrived.

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James said she told firefighters that she heard a "popping" sound in the sitting room next to the home's garage and noticed the curtains were on fire when she went to investigate.

"She tried to put it out with a garden hose," said Morgan, who said the fire appeared to be caused by an electrical malfunction and was not suspicious.

From the sitting room, the fire went through the roof and into the garage and kitchen before it was contained, Morgan said. Smoke and heat damaged the remaining areas of the home, he added.

"It was totally black in there from the heat," Morgan said.

The estimated value of personal belongings lost in the fire was between $40,000 and $50,000, Morgan said.

Members of James' family were making arrangements for her to stay with them, Morgan said.

About 25 fire and rescue personnel responded and needed more than two hours to clear the scene.

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