MCFRS News Release

Wheaton Man Succumbs to Injuries

56 year-old Resident Injured While Cooking
Neighbor Had Rendered Aid

Just before 6 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2006 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) were dispatched for an automatic fire alarm at 1121 University Boulevard West at the Arcola Towers Apartments, in Wheaton. As fire and rescue units were arriving on the scene as a 911 call was received reporting a fire with an injury on the 10th floor. The Arcola Towers is a 15-story high rise building.

First arriving firefighters encountered a burn victim as they entered the building’s first floor lobby area. A 10th floor resident, Mr. Larry Levine, age 56, had suffered serious burns to his upper body. He was treated on the scene and transported to the MedStar Burn Unit at the Washington Hospital Center. On October 10, 2006 he succumbed to injuries and died in the hospital from complications. An autopsy will be performed by the DC Medical Examiner.

At the time of the initial injury, firefighters found “fire out conditions” with minimal fire damage on the 10th floor. Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators believe the fire was accidental. The preliminary investigation indicated that a lone resident, a 56-year-old male was cooking over a natural gas stove top and accidentally caught his clothing on fire.

Fire Investigators believe he panicked and for a few moments hurriedly tried to extinguish the fire while in his apartment making loud noises in the process. He then quickly left his apartment and entered into the hallway in an attempt to alert a neighbor of his situation. This neighbor was not home.

However, another neighbor hearing the commotion had entered the hallway from another direction and proceeded toward the commotion and calls for help. This neighbor met the victim near the 10th floor elevator lobby area. The victims clothing was ablaze. A hallway smoke alarm activated alerting the alarm company and sounding the building’s fire alarm. The neighbor quickly assisted the man by snuffing out the flames and removing the burning clothes from the victim. He then called 911. Both men then proceeded to the lobby via the stairwell and met arriving emergency fire and rescue crews. The quick and decisive actions by the neighbor were life-saving and allowed the victim the best possible chance for survival.

Unfortunately, Mr. Larry Levine had serious and life-threatening burn injuries. He remained in critical condition in the Washington Hospital Center MedStar Burn Unit until the time of his death. This is the County’s third (3rd) residential fire fatality of the year.

The leading causes of fire are improperly discarded smoking materials, cooking, heating equipment (including those associated with space heaters and fireplaces), arson and electrical (not necessarily in that order). Improperly discarded smoking materials and/or careless smoking is the leading cause of residential fire fatalities, followed by cooking. In Montgomery County, two (2) out of the three (3) this year (2006) and all five (5) residential fire fatalities in 2005 occurred to persons older than age 75. Mr. Levine was 56 years old.