The Aegis
Harford County

Two Havre de Grace families garner support from community after fire destroys their homes

The Havre de Grace community is rallying together to assist two families after a fire destroyed their adjoining homes only a few days before Christmas.

When Brandon Harris woke up to get ready for work around 4:20 a.m. Tuesday, he discovered a fire in his younger son’s bedroom in the back of the house in the 200 block of Seneca Avenue, he said.


The Harris family went to the adjoining home to alert Emily Fahnestock and her family. The Fahnestock family had just been awakened by smoke detectors when Brandon’s wife, Crystal, rushed them out their home, Fahnestock said.

“We were dead asleep until we heard their alarms going off. As soon as we put it together, Crystal was banging on our door that it was a fire,” Fahnestock said. “We would have died if they wouldn’t have came.”


The fire destroyed the Harris’ home and half of the Fahnestock’s home. The Susquehanna Hose Company and Aberdeen Proving Ground fire station responded with 50 firefighters, who controlled the fire in about 30 minutes, said Scott Hurst, fire chief of the Susquehanna Hose Company.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Office of the State Fire Marshal, but fire officials confirmed the fire started in the child’s bedroom. They are not ruling out spontaneous combustion of freshly laundered clothes, said Oliver Alkire, assistant public information officer for the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The fire caused an estimated $100,000 in damages, Alkire said.

After the fire, Harford County Councilman Jacob Bennett asked the public during Tuesday’s council meeting to help the Harris and the Fahnestock families.

“This fire was a horrific event and my heart goes out to the families impacted by it,” Bennett said. “I encourage everyone to consider how they may be of assistance in this moment of need, especially in the heart of the holiday season.”

In addition to Brandon and Crystal, the Harris family includes their 11- and 13-year-old sons J’sai and Brandon Jr. They were not injured in the fire.

The family also had two cats and two pit bulls. One of the pit bulls was lost in the fire and they haven’t been able to find the two cats.

Currently, the family is staying in a hotel while Brandon Harris is still working at Ryder and Crystal Harris at a local warehouse.

Members of the community have started GoFundMe campaigns for both families. Hte community has helped provide them with everything they have needed, Brandon Harris said. Brandon Harris is one of the pillars in the community, Bennett said, a beloved volunteer youth sports coach through the years who has lived in the area most of his life.


“I’m so grateful of this community with me being here most of my life,” said Brandon Harris. “Just to have the outpour of support and love come to me and my family is greatly appreciated. I don’t know how how I would bounce back from this situation if it wasn’t for the community, friends and family.”

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The Fahnestock family consists of Emily Fahnestock, her boyfriend Lamont Stokes, and her 12-year-old daughter, Annebella Fahnestock. None of them were injured.

Fahnestock said the landlord released them from their lease because they were behind on rent. The Red Cross has put them in a hotel for now, Fahnestock said. They are also reaching out to community agencies to find housing, she said.

“The community has really come together, whether it was for clothes or food donation,” Fahnestock said. “Without the community, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now. I am truly grateful.”

Fahnestock continues to work at Lidl in Aberdeen and her boyfriend works at MacGregor’s restaurant in Havre de Grace.

“These two families that lost so much in this fire are members of our community, and I am thankful to see so many stepping up to support them right now,” Bennett said. “We are truly Havre de Grace strong.”


GoFundMe campaign for the Harris family:

GoFundMe campaign for the Fahnestock family: