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Tour of fire scene illustrates dangers

June 14, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN -- The kitchen where the fire started looked like a war zone.

Cabinets above the stove were charred and some of the doors were barely hanging on.

A hood above the stove was leaning to one side and charred remains were scattered around the counters and stove.

Across the room, windows were blown out, a result of the fire gasping for air.

Hagerstown Fire Department members had the June 9 blaze at 33 Avalon Ave. extinguished in about three to four minutes, said member Deanna Pelton.

And although the occupants of the fire were able to escape, the condition of the apartment points to how dangerous a house fire can be.

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People living in the apartment were alerted to the blaze by smoke alarms, Pelton said.

"Had they not had smoke alarms, they would be dead," Mike Weller, fire safety educator with the city fire department, said during a tour of the house Sunday.

Fire department members often walk around neighborhoods where serious fires occur, hand out free smoke alarms and invite people over for tours of the structures to illustrate the dangers of fire, Pelton said.

"It makes a huge impact. It doesn't get any more real than this," Weller said.

The tours at 33 Avalon Ave. started at about 5:45 p.m. Sunday and were expected to run for about two hours. They started in the living room.

Smoke began pouring into the living room during the fire and Weller pointed to a dark line about halfway up the wall, which showed how low the smoke was hanging.

Firefighters estimate that the temperature along the floor of the living room was about 80 degrees during the fire.

Above the line?

600 degrees.

It was worse in the kitchen.

"The temperature here was 1,000 degrees," said a sign on the refrigerator.

The stairs to the upstairs bedrooms acted like a chimney for the fire and the once-white walls and woodwork were black and blistered.

The woman who lived in the house took the tour, but said afterward she was too upset to talk about the fire.

Crystal Marcum, who lives in an apartment next door, said seeing the burned apartment was troubling. Marcum said she was concerned about her son playing with matches recently and thinks the tour made him realize how dangerous fire can be.

"It shows it could happen to you," Marcum said.

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