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Fault in electrical outlet caused fatal fire at Arundel Lodge home

and Contact Reporterspdavis@capgaznews.com; ccook@capgaznews.com

An electrical outlet caused a fire last month that killed three people at the Arundel Lodge group home in Severn, fire investigators said Tuesday.

The Anne Arundel County Fire Department released a statement saying the April 21 fire “was the result of an electrical fault in a duplex electrical receptacle located in a rear bedroom of the residence.”

Capt. Russ Davies, a department spokesman, said investigators determined the cause to be a “fault in the socket itself,” but that any further investigation would be handled by the insurance company.

Davies added that the victims — two residents, Walter McCardell, 61, and William Garcia, along with worker Barbara Brown, 65, were found in two rooms at the front of the house, not near the spot where the fire originated.

Investigators believe Brown died while trying to save Garcia as both were found dead inside the same room in the house. Paramedics tried to resuscitate McCardell when they found him inside the home, but they were unsuccessful and declared him dead at the scene.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore determined McCardell died of smoke inhalation, while Brown and Garcia died of smoke inhalation and burns.

Arundel Lodge Executive Director Mike Drummond said in a prepared statement released by his organization that Arundel Lodge worked closely with the fire department to identify the cause of the blaze.

Drummond, who has declined requests for interviews in the wake of the fire, said staff and clients at the nonprofit remain devastated by the deaths.

“Thank you to the community for all of the outpouring of love and condolences as we continue to support families and friends of those we lost, as well as staff,” Drummond wrote in his statement.

The fire tore through the single-family dwelling owned by Arundel Lodge, a nonprofit organization that offers mental health and addiction treatment across the county. It was one of the group’s 32 residential rehabilitation homes in the county.

It took 45 firefighters from Anne Arundel County, Fort George G. Meade and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport more than an hour to put out the fire, which destroyed the building. Firefighters arrived on scene at t 10:51 p.m. April 21 where they battled the blaze.

Firefighters found only one of the trapped residents during their first two searches, according to fire reports. A third search took place after firefighters were notified of missing individuals.

Nearby residents calling 911 reported explosions and a building engulfed in flames.

“Oh God, it is all on fire,” one caller said. “Oh, there are flames everywhere. It is coming out the windows and everything. Please hurry.”

Drummond said it was the first incident of its kind in the nonprofit group’s 40-year history.

Maryland state law requires safety inspections for group homes and residential rehabilitation houses such as the Severn home.

These requirements include working smoke alarms and smoke detectors, hot and cold running water, sufficient furnishings and placement of emergency numbers and on-call staff.

The Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency handles those inspections and follows state guidelines. Anne Arundel County does not require additional inspections or guidelines.

That home did not have any issues in its previous inspection, said Adrienne Mickler, Anne Arundel County Mental Health Agency director. A copy of the safety inspection has not been released.

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