Katy and Mark Houston walked out of their Millersville home to take their 2-year-old son, Wolfgang, to the park on Friday morning. When they returned an hour later, their home was surrounded by firetrucks and engulfed in flames.
Fire officials did not confirm the identity of the 77-year-old woman who died in the fire, but Mark Houston said it was Katy Houston’s mother, Helen Collins. Friends and family also posted on social media confirming Collins' death.
As they cope with so much sudden loss, the Houstons are not sure what they will do once their temporary housing from the Red Cross is over.
“Right now we’re kind of in shock,” Mark Houston said. “We’ve had a lot of people step up and help out and it’s been very humbling. It’s been hard to put in words how much it means.”
When Jessica Dunkley heard about what happened to her friends, she could only think of one thing to do.
“It immediately hit me,” she recalled. “Oh my God, they need a GoFundMe page, and they need it now.”
The fundraiser started by Dunkley raised more than $9,000 in less than 24 hours, prompting her to move the goal from $10,000 to $20,000 as of Saturday afternoon. She’s hoping the money can provide her friends with clothes and resources while they figure out their next steps and make funeral arrangements.
She’s also hoping it can provide them a bit of hope.
“It’s been really heartwarming to see the people who have rallied around Mark and Katie,” Dunkley said. “We need to keep that going because a lot of work needs to be done.”
The coronavirus pandemic has added more challenges for the Houstons to an already unimaginably challenging time, Dunkley’s mother Chandra Ludwig said.
The couple needs extra cleaning supplies to keep themselves and their baby safe while in temporary housing, Ludwig said. After the fire, she said she drove store to store with the couple trying to find disinfecting wipes.
Firefighters were called to a house in the 800 block of Generals Highway on Friday by a 911 call from neighbors about 10:35 a.m. for a working fire, said Capt. Erik Kornmeyer. They arrived in about five minutes to find the first and second floors of the building engulfed in smoke and flames with reports that one woman was trapped inside.
She was removed from the home and pronounced dead on the scene, Kornmeyer said. She is the third fire-related death this year in the county. The Houstons also lost two dogs and a cat in the fire, Dunkley said.
It took 45 firefighters and six tankers to get the fire under control before 1 p.m., but Kornmeyer said it would be several hours before they fully extinguished it.
One firefighter suffered minor burns and was taken to Johns Hopkins Burn Center at Bayview Medical Center.