Two years ago fire officials had installed new smoke detectors next door to the home in yesterday’s deadly blaze in Olney.
Two children — ages 7 and 9 — died and eight other people were hospitalized following the fire on Sparks Street near Masher. The two-story home did have one working smoke detector in the basement, though it was at least 15 years old, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
“We’ve been in the block several times assisting neighbors,” Ayers said. “We actually put smoke alarms in next door.”
The fire began shortly before noon and it took crews 42 minutes to get it under control, Ayers said. He described conditions in the home as “things we would want to correct,” including overloaded circuits, cords stretching from one room to another and lots of cigarette butts. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Neighbors said the flames engulfed the home in minutes.
“Literally within two minutes of coming out of [my] house the flames were billowing from under the roof,” said neighbor Anthony Lotson. “It was an absolute inferno.”
Neighbors said the victims were a Cambodian family who had lived on the block for about eight years. The mother, who owned a bakery, was in Cambodia dealing with the death of a family member.
“They’re nice, especially the wife and mom. She gets along with everybody,” said neighbor Maria Davis. “They’re nice well-behaved kids too. It’s very sad.”
Engine 61 should have been the first to respond to the fire but was browned out. Instead, Engine 51 arrived in five minutes 20 seconds. Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said he doesn’t believe the response should be blamed. A 2006 federal study found national response times were less than five minutes 50 percent of the time and less than eight minutes 75 percent.