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Halfway man escapes house fire

July 21, 2013|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com
  • A fire Saturday destroyed this garage and damaged the home at 17300 Cloverleaf Road near Allen Avenue in Halfway.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

Halfway resident Bob Keplinger said he was in his basement Saturday night when he heard pounding on his front door.

He needed to get something from upstairs anyway so he headed up the steps. 

When he smelled smoke, he grabbed a fire extinguisher. Then he heard more banging, this time at his back door.

When Keplinger stepped outside, he saw his two-car garage engulfed in flames, and he knew the small fire extinguisher was no match for the fire that would spread to the back of his house, he said.

No one was injured in the fire at the intersection of Cloverleaf Road and Allen Avenue, Halfway Assistant Fire Chief Wesley Loveless said Sunday morning.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s office was investigating the cause of the fire at 17300 Cloverleaf Road, Loveless said.

Firefighters had the fire, which was called in at 10:31 p.m. Saturday, out within 25 to 30 minutes, leaving firefighters to rip out walls and ceilings to see if the fire had spread, Loveless said. They were at the scene until about 2 a.m., he said.

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In addition to the attached two-car garage being destroyed, the back bedroom had fire damage and other parts of the house had smoke damage, Loveless said. The house could not be lived in but was not a complete loss, he said.

At one point, 59 firefighters were at the scene, Loveless said.

Firefighters from Halfway, Williamsport, Funkstown, Maugansville and Longmeadow fire companies, as well as Washington County’s special operations, air unit and rehab unit, responded to the fire, Loveless said.

Unbeknownst to Keplinger, it was his next-door neighbor, Tim O’Ney, who attempted to alert him to the fire.

O’Ney said he went to see why his dog wouldn’t stop barking. When he saw the fire, he went to notify Keplinger, while his wife, Kathryn, called 911.

“I appreciate them doing that,” Keplinger said. 

He also thanked God for getting him out OK.

Loveless said flames reached at least 40 feet as the attached garage contained flammable liquids, including gasoline and propane tanks. Firefighters were able to remove the propane tanks and hose them down to cool them off, he said.

Also in the garage was Keplinger’s 2013 Toyota Corolla and a Honda Shadow 600 motorcycle, said Keplinger, a retired state correctional officer.

The bedroom that burned was his, though he was sleeping in the cooler basement, Keplinger said.

Keplinger said he lost his clothes.

His pastor, David Grove of Ebenezer United Brethren Christ near Greencastle, Pa., stayed with Keplinger until about 3:30 a.m. and took him to Walmart to get some shoes and clothes, Keplinger said.

Asked if there were any fundraising efforts to help him, Keplinger said nobody had to do that. He said he wasn’t rich or poor, but he had homeowner’s insurance.

Keplinger said the American Red Cross was providing him shelter at a local hotel for a few days.

His nephew, Mark Cyzyk of Towson, Md., drove to town Sunday morning to help his uncle and planned to take him to get some more clothes.

Cyzyk said he was just grateful his uncle got out of the house in time and was OK.

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