MCFRS News Release
Kensington Woman Succumbs to Injuries
78 year-old Resident Dies in House Fire
Second Residential Fire Fatality of Year in Montgomery County
Around 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 27, 2006 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded for the report of a house fire at 9700 Cedar Lane, in the Parkwood neighborhood, of Kensington. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy smoke conditions coming from a two and half-story brick colonial style house. There was an initial report that one elderly occupant was still in the house.
Within minutes of arrival, firefighters located a 78 year old female resident and removed her from the smoke filled house. Unfortunately, she was unable to survive and succumbed to her injuries. She was pronounced dead on the scene. She is identified as Mary Louise Harrington, age 78, of 9700 Cedar Lane.
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Fire and Explosive Investigators believe the fire was accidental and caused by improperly discarded smoking materials. The fire is believed to have started in a chair in the first floor living room area. Firefighter rescuers using thermal imaging cameras found Mrs. Harrington in the living room on a couch nearby. The fire is believed to have smoldered and burned for an extended period of time before being discovered by a visiting relative.
Shortly after 12:30 p.m., Mrs. Harrington’s daughter had stopped to check on her mother. Upon opening the door, she was confronted with thick smoke and high heat. As this was happening, a passing motorist, who happened to be a volunteer firefighter, stopped to assist. Neither could gain access due to heat and smoke. Within 5 minutes fire and rescue crews arrived and proceeded with search and rescue and extinguishment. Moments later the victim was located and removed. The fire was controlled in about 10-15 minutes. Damage is estimated to be $150,000. One firefighter was injured and is expected to be treated and released.
Detectives from the Montgomery County Department of Police, Homicide section assisted Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Fire and Explosive Investigators on the scene.
Improperly discarded smoking materials and/or careless smoking was the leading cause of fire fatalities in 2005. So far in 2006 there have been two (2) residential fire fatalities and improperly discarded smoking materials has been the cause. The other fatal this year occurred in February and resulted in the death of a 84 year-old Rockville man.
Montgomery County, Maryland has experienced two (2) fire deaths so far this year (2006) and five (5) in 2005. All seven (7) residential fatal fire victims were over the age of 75. Fire deaths in the County in the last several years have established a trend which clearly show older adults are at higher risk. Earlier this year County Executive Doug Duncan established the Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force.
Consisting of up to 25 members, the Task Force is actively engaged and will submitting strategies and procedures designed to reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries to senior citizens in the county in a report to County Executive Doug Duncan and County Fire Chief Tom Carr.
The Task Force will have up to 25 members, with the majority of the public members being senior citizens. Members will be serving for two-year terms. Mr. J. Paul Thomas, of Colesville is the Chair and Jacqueline Rabinow, of Silver Spring is the Vice Chair, both of whom were appointed by the County Executive.
Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force
The Task Force must advise the Executive and the Fire Chief on strategies and procedures designed to reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries to senior citizens in the County. This includes providing advice on:
- Approaches to reduce fire risk, injury, and deaths among senior citizens;
- Demographic and community changes (such as housing density) that affect safety of the elderly;
- Educational efforts to be undertaken to improve awareness among senior citizens and their caregivers of fire injury and death prevention strategies;
- Resources needed to reduce fire risk among senior citizens in the County;
- Legislation at State and County levels to reduce fire risk, injury, and deaths among seniors.
- Enncouraging the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to write standards for senior citizen housing. The facts speak for themselves: Montgomery County, Maryland residents over the age of 65 are one of the groups at greatest risk of dying in a fire. For that matter, on average, nearly 1000 Americans age 65 and over die in fires each year. People over the age of 80 die in fires at a rate three times higher than the rest of the population. Of the two (2) residential fire fatalities this year (2006) and the five (5) fire fatalities in Montgomery County in 2005 all were over the age of 75 years old, two were 80 years old and two were over 90 years old.
Quick Facts: Montgomery County, Maryland
- Since year 2000 - 35 Total Residential Fire Deaths (all ages), 18 were Seniors, 8 of those were improperly discarded smoking materials, 6 Undetermined (however, several believed to be smoking material), 3 Cooking related;
- 50% (18 of 35) have been senior citizens - age 65 or older - the national average is 34%.
- In 2005 in Montgomery County - 100% (5 of 5) of residential fire fatalities were senior citizens over age 75.
- Seniors represent about 12% of population in Montgomery County. They reside in 21% of homes.
- In 2006 - Two (2) residential fire fatalities this year - senior citizen age 84 and 78, - smoking material the cause.
NOTE: smoking materials was the cause 80% (4 of 5) residential fire fatalities in 2005. and 100% of the cause of fatal fires so far this year (2006)