A pair of children playing with matches in a Forest Hill home while the rest of the family was asleep are being blamed for starting a fire that displaced the family and significantly damaged the house.
Just after 10 a.m. on Sunday, emergency personnel were dispatched to the 1200 block of Sharon Acres Road in Forest Hill for a reported dwelling fire in a two-story, single family house.
A total of 13 people were inside the home at the time of the fire, including eight adults and two children (ages 11 and 16) as well as a girlfriend of one of the adults and her two children (ages 8 and 5). Everyone with the exception of the visiting 8 and 5-year-old were asleep in their bedrooms. Smoke alarms awoke the sleeping occupants. The homeowner awakened to discover a fire within his dining room. He instructed the remainder of the occupants to exit the home and attempted to extinguish the fire with water, to no avail, and the fire spread rapidly beyond his control. The homeowner then exited the home, closing the front door behind him. This action essentially contained the fire to the dining room.
Twenty-five firefighters from Jarrettsville Volunteer Fire Company, assisted by personnel from Fallston, Bel Air, Norrisville and Whiteford, had the single-alarm fire under control within 10 minutes. Firefighters made entry and were able to contain the fire to the dining room with extensive heat, smoke and soot damage to the adjacent kitchen. The remainder of the home sustained minor soot and smoke damage. A bedroom/home office adjacent to the dining room sustained no damage due to a hollow core door preventing the fire to spread into the room.
Interviews conducted by on-scene investigators revealed that the 8-yr-old son of the visiting girlfriend admitted to playing with matches. The fire was determined not to be malicious or intentional.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal estimated the fire caused $25,000 in damage to the structure and another $25,000 in damage to its contents. The homeowner sustained minor smoke inhalation, but was treated on scene by EMS and refused transport.
Deputy State Fire Marshals believe, without a doubt, Harford County avoided multiple-fire fatalities due to working smoke alarms. This is the third time in as many days, working smoke alarms are credited with waking sleeping occupants to a fire inside their home in Harford/Cecil Counties. Harford County Disaster Assistance is assisting the family.