MCFRS News Release

Triple Fatal Apartment Fire in Burtonsville

Three Young Children Succumb to Injury - Mother Clings to Life

Around 4:45 a.m. on Thursday, June 28, 2007 units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were dispatched for smoke coming from a building in the 13,800 block of Castle Boulevard, in Burtonsville. First arriving units from Burtonsville, Fire Station 15 encountered smoke from a terrace level apartment at 13,820 Castle Boulevard. Three (3) children have succumbed to their injuries and died. Their mother remains in critical condition.

Upon arrival, firefighters quickly located a fire in the kitchen of a terrace level, 2-bedroom apartment. Moments later firefighters found four (4) victims in a nearby bedroom. All victims, one adult and three children were found unconscious and not breathing. They were rescued by firefighters and removed to the outside to awaiting medical providers.

Elsie Nuka (Foncham), age 30, was initially transported to Holy Cross Hospital, in Silver Spring. She has been transferred to the University of Maryland, Shock Trauma Unit, in Baltimore. Chanelle Foncham, age 4, was transported to Holy Cross Hospital, in Silver Spring. Megan Foncham, age 2, was transported to Greater Laurel Beltsville Hospital, in Laurel and 6 month old MaKenzie was transported to Children's National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. by medevac helicopter. Elsie Nuka remains in critical condition. The children succumbed to their injuries and were pronounced dead at the hospitals, presumably from smoke inhalation.

Fire Investigators believe the fire was accidental and originated in the kitchen and was caused by combustibles too close to a heat source. It is thought that sometime early this morning Elsie Nuka was in the kitchen utilizing a bottle sterilizer. In addition she may have been using a stovetop burner to prepare and heat some baby formula. It is believed that for whatever reason she left the kitchen and these operating appliances unattended. Fire Investigators believe that the plastic bottle sterilizer caught fire and spread to other nearby combustibles. It is believed that the smoke alarm activated and alerted her to the fire. It appears as though she returned to discover the fire and then sought refuge in the bedroom with her children. It is possible they were unable to exit through the hallway past the intense heat and smoke. They were all found unconscious and not breathing in the bedroom.

Fire Investigators estimate damage at approximately $60,000. Fourteen apartments were originally evacuated and temporarily displaced. All but two families have been able to return to their apartments.

Before today there have been four residential fire fatalities in Montgomery County, all four involved senior citizens. Today's triple fatal residential fire involving children is the worst multiple fire fatality since January 2002 when a family of four were killed in an accidental fire in Gaithersburg.

Firefighters from the area will be revisiting the Windsor Court Apartment neighborhood this evening, June 28, in an effort to check smoke alarms, talk to residents about fire safety and the circumstances of this fire and to answer any questions. In fact, firefighters throughout Montgomery County will be going into local neighborhoods and communities handing out fire safety information, emphasizing the importance of fire safety, check smoke alarms and answering questions as part of the Montgomery County 'Safety in the Neighborhood' campaign. This will be a county-wide effort and will take place for the next couple of days throughout Montgomery County.