Matt Foster, of Arbutus, talks about how he helped rescue his neighbors from a house fire that killed one person and critically injured another.

A 51-year-old man died and his 97-year-old grandmother was critically injured in a house fire in Arbutus early Wednesday morning.

Baltimore County Fire Department officials said Michael Wayne Johnson was trapped on the second floor and died in the blaze, which happened just after midnight at the two-story, single-family home where he lived in the 900 block of Courtney Road.


A Baltimore County police officer and a Maryland State Police trooper, who were among the first arriving on the scene, helped Johnson’s sister bring their 97-year-old grandmother out of the house through her bedroom window, said a fire department spokeswoman, Elise Armacost.

The grandmother was taken to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center for treatment. Johnson’s sister and their mother, who was also in the home at the time, were taken to a local hospital with minor injuries. No information on their conditions was available as of Wednesday evening.

The identities of the sister, mother and grandmother have not been released. Family members could not be reached for comment.

The fire took more than two hours to bring under control and caused extensive damage to the home, Armacost said. The cause of the blaze is under investigation, and there was no initial evidence to suggest foul play, she said.

By Wednesday afternoon, investigators wearing protective gear and helmets were entering the charred remains of the house, which had a sign outside warning: “No Trespassing.”

Matt Foster, 34, a neighbor who lives across the street, said he heard a loud bang, then looked out his window to see the house across the street engulfed in flames.

He said he told his wife to call 911, then ran across the street and entered the burning house through a back door and pulled Johnson’s mother outside, just before a power line exploded.

Foster, who said he was a former firefighter and emergency medical technician in Montgomery County, helped a responding police officer perform CPR by doing chest compressions on the grandmother.

“My instincts just kicked in,” Foster said. “I was just trying to do like I’ve been trained to do.”

County police confirmed Foster’s aid in performing CPR on the 97-year-old.

Foster said for him, the hardest part of the tragedy was seeing Johnson’s mother cry.

“There was nothing we could do — just helpless, you know?” he said.

He said one of the injured family members was reluctant to go to the hospital because she could not locate the family’s dog, Little Man.

“I told her, if Little Man is around here, we’ll find him,” Foster said.


Foster said his 14-year-old daughter later found Little Man, and as of Wednesday afternoon the shaggy gray dog was being kept at Foster’s home, looking frequently across the street at the burned-out house.

Foster said his wife called the hospital where Johnson’s mother was to tell her that they had found her dog. “You’re like Santa Claus,” Foster said the nurse told her.

“Hopefully that’s one thing that can ease her mind,” he said.

David Fitzwater, a school security guard in Reisterstown, grew up on Westland Boulevard in Arbutus. On Wednesday, as news of the deadly fire spread, he drove from Reisterstown to see the remains.

“It’s a sad thing to see something like this happen in the area you grew up in,” he said.