MCFRS News Release

Firefighters Canvass Neighborhoods for Safety

After Triple Fatal Apartment Fire in Burtonsville - A Call for Action

Three Young Children Died - Mother Clings to Life

Firefighters from all across Montgomery County have been going-door-to-door since Thursday in an effort to check smoke alarms and talk about fire safety. Early on Thursday, June 28, 2007, around 4:45 a.m. units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were dispatched for smoke coming from a building at 13,820 Castle Boulevard, in Burtonsville. Three (3) children, Chanelle Foncham, age 4, Megan Foncham, age 2, and MaKenzie Foncham, age 4 months succumbed to their injuries and died. Their mother, Elsie Nuka (Foncham), age 30 remains in critical condition at the Trauma Center, in Baltimore.

Firefighters revisited Castle Boulevard and the Windsor Court Apartment neighborhood that evening in an effort to check smoke alarms, talk to residents about fire safety and the circumstances of this fire and to answer any questions. Firefighters were welcomed into about 160 apartments, installed about 40 (backup) battery operated smoke alarms, in addition to replacing just as many batteries. In fact, for several days, firefighters throughout Montgomery County have been 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 effort 3-day effort has resulted in nearly 5,000 homes, including single-family homes, apartments, townhouses and condos being visited, over 4,000 smoke alarms were checked, nearly 250 smoke alarms were installed and about 300 smoke alarm batteries were replaced or plugged in.

At the Burtonsville incident, 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.

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 believed that the smoke alarm activated. It is possible they were unable to exit through the hallway past the intense heat and smoke. Several neighbors called 911 reporting smoke and/or the alarm sounding. The victims were all found unconscious and not breathing in the bedroom. Although the building was not required to have sprinklers, Fire Investigators believe residential fire sprinklers would have extinguished the fire, or controlled it enough where the occupants could have escaped.

Fire Investigators estimate damage at approximately $60,000. Fourteen apartments were originally evacuated and temporarily displaced. The fire was confined to the apartment of origin. All other families in the building of origin were able to return to their apartments the evening of June 28, 2007.

Before Thursday's triple residential fatal fire there had been four residential fire fatalities in Montgomery County, all four involved senior citizens. This 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.