Manchester apartment fire leaves elderly man cold, scared

Philip Gray, his son and his son’s family had moved some of their belongings into the apartment they recently rented on the 3100 block of Main Street in Manchester on Christmas.

They planned to complete their move on Wednesday, Gray said.


His son and the rest of the family returned to their previous residence to collect the last of the furniture, including a sofa they’d heave onto the roof of the car, Gray said.

The 86-year-old stayed behind and had been sitting by the window puffing on a cigar, he said, before putting the cigar in an ashtray sitting on the windowsill.

“All of the sudden I seen the flame come up right by the window,” Gray told the Times, wrapped up in blankets at a neighbor’s house. “And I went and grabbed sheets and the blanket and threw it on top.”

But a pillow cloth caught fire, he said, and Gray threw the flaming bedding out the window and to the ground below.

“There was a fire department man standing down there and he said, ‘You need help?’ ” Gray explained. “And I said, ‘Oh sure, my bed caught on fire.’ ”

Gino Depalmer, who owns the barber shop directly across the street from the apartment, said he saw Gray walking by the apartment in his undergarments — soaked from the sprinkler system.

The Manchester Volunteer Fire Company, located less than 300 feet from Gray’s apartment, was dispatched at 11:49 a.m. Fire crews from Hampstead, Lineboro, Westminster and Pleasant Hill, Pennsylvania, were also dispatched.

“Next thing you know, boom, boom, boom, they’re knocking out the windows and squirting water,” Depalmer said.

A neighbor adjacent to Gino’s Barber Shop hurried Gray into her home, giving him fresh clothes and wrapping the shivering man in blankets.

Fire crews arrived to find smoke showing, said Manchester Chief Chris Horrigan, who led the firefighting efforts Wednesday.

“Crews went in and made a fire attack on the second-floor bedroom that was on fire,” Horrigan said. “The building is [equipped with a sprinkler system]. The sprinkler was activated. The sprinkler did its job. It kept the fire in check and we just had to knock it real quick and secure the sprinkler system.”

The firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in about 9 minutes, Horrigan said. “The fire was knocked at 12:04.”

“The damage is mainly the contents of a bedroom and very minor structural damage to drywall and window,” the chief added.

At around 1 p.m. burnt mattresses and other debris from the bedroom blaze were strewn about the sidewalk, as fire officials rolled up fire hoses and kept part of Main Street closed between York and Church streets.


In its investigation of the fire, the Office of the State Fire Marshal determined that “improperly discarded smoking material ignited bedding material,” according to a release from the Maryland fire marshal detailed.

The fire marshal estimated the fire caused $35,000 in damage and the home will remain unoccupied temporarily while restoration personnel make minor repairs and clean up, the release details.

Gray escaped the blaze with a spot on the side of his knee that he likened to a sun burn. He said he felt lucky to have been spared worse.

“I’m glad I didn’t get burnt,” he said from his new neighbor’s recliner, thanking her for “giving me blankets and warming me up.”

“I was cold. I’m all right now.”