MCFRS News Release

Derwood Triple Fatal House Fire

Cause of Fire Undetermined - focus on candles and/or electrical

Local firefighters revisit neighborhood this evening with safety campaign

Three members from one family died and a teenager escaped during an early morning fire in Gaithersburg on Monday, December 10, 2007. An activated smoke alarm is responsible for the escape of one occupant while mobility issues may have complicated the others exit from the burning house.

Just before 4 a.m. units from the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service were called by a neighbor for a report of a house fire at 17804 Muncaster Road, in Derwood. First arriving firefighters encountered heavy fire, engulfing 75% of the house, upon arrival. Bystanders reported that three persons were still trapped inside. Firefighters made a very aggressive attack of the fire in order to gain entry to the bedroom area where they removed and rescued two persons, 5 year old Adam Sanchez and his 75 year old grandmother, Paula Curiel. Mrs. Curiel died at the scene. Adam Sanchez was transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later. Adam's mother Guillermina "Gail" Curiel Garcia, age 45, also died in the fire. She was located by firefighters in the dining area shortly after they gained control of the fire on the first floor. She was the daughter of Mrs. Curiel.

Ms. Garcia's other son, 13 years old, managed to escape. He was awakened by an activated smoke alarm and as he ascended the stairs from the basement he was confronted by high heat and heavy smoke. Once on the first floor he was unable to pass through the dining area to the bedrooms due to the fire conditions. He exited through a rear sliding door off the dining area. He immediately ran to a neighbor's house and alerted them to the fire. The neighbors called 911 and proceeded to the house in an attempt to assist. They were unable to gain entry. Moments later firefighters arrived on the scene.

Approximately 50 firefighters responded to the scene. Montgomery County Fire and Explosive Investigators believe the fire most probably originated in the living room and at this time the cause has not been determined. The investigation will continue and will focus on several possible causes; one being electrical and the other being the use of candles. Damage is estimated to be $500,000, including $300,000 to the structure and $200,000 to the contents.

The thirteen year old male is being held in a local hospital for observation. His little brother, Adam Sanchez's birthday was to be on this Wednesday, December 12. Firefighters will be checking smoke alarms in the immediate area as part of the 'Safety in the Neighborhood' campaign.

These victims are the eleventh, twelve and thirteenth residential fire fatalities of the year in Montgomery County. This marks the largest number of residential fire deaths in over thirty years. In 1975 there were fifteen (15) and in 1996 thirteen (13), eight (8) of whom died in the Amtrak train crash and fire. In 2006, four (4) persons died in residential fires, five (5) in 2005. This year, 2007, also included three (3) multiple fatal fires, including in May on Baltimore Street in Kensington, two elderly residents of a house; in June a Burtonsville mother and three children in a Castle Boulevard apartment fire; and today's Derwood fire on Muncaster Road.