Off-Duty, Retired Firefighter Comes to the Rescue

One Occupant Trapped, Two Firefighters Hurt, Damage $500,000

Around 10:45 p.m. on Monday, January 8, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) were dispatched for the report of a house fire at 26545 Ridge Road, in Damascus. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy smoke coming from a two-story single family house. Additional units from Montgomery County, Carroll County and Frederick County also responded.

About that time a retired Montgomery County Fire Fighter and off-duty MCFRS Apparatus Maintenance employee, Tony Veith was driving through Damascus on his way home. He noticed considerable smoke coming from the house on Ridge Road (Route 27), pulled over and called 911. Mr. Veith then quickly approached the front door of the residence and assisted the lone resident from the house. The 70 year-old occupant had attempted to exit through the seldom-used front door but had issues unlocking it as he typically always used another door as his main entrance door into the residence. As smoke and heat filled the house, Mr. Veith was able to assist the man exit safely without injury. The resident told Montgomery County Fire Investigators that he was afraid he was not going to make it out as conditions were rapidly deteriorating.

Approximately sixty-five (65) firefighters were dispatched to the scene. Two firefighters received minor, non-life threatening injuries and were transported to local hospitals. Both were treated and released. Fire Investigators believe the fire was accidental. The resident told Fire Investigators the he was watching a football game and at half time he got up to get the clothes out of the dryer and discovered they were not dry. The resident reset the dryer and went back to watching the game. About 15 minutes later he smelled smoke and upon investigation discovered heavy smoke coming from the back of his house.

Moments later he found fire burning up from behind the dryer in the laundry room and extending to nearby combustibles. He left the area immediately and called 911. The resident decided to exit through the front door, but struggled to get it open. It was about this time that Mr. Veith successfully intervened.

The investigation determined there was an unspecified failure in the dryer, either a malfunction of the thermostat timer or a collection of lint in a vent which caused the fire. The resident advised that he had been having a recent problem with the dryer not drying clothing properly. Damage is estimated to be $500,000, including $400,000 to structure and $100,000 to the contents. It appears that clutter in the residence added to the fire spread and initial extinguishment issues. There was no evidence and/or indication that the home had a working smoke alarm.