A fire forced a mother, her two children, two nephews and two grandchildren out of their Columbia town house Thursday, county firefighters said.

The fire began shortly before 7:40 p.m. in the 6500 block of Sweet Fern, in Owen Brown village, when food overheated on a stove, firefighters said.

Fire damaged the kitchen and smoke damaged the other rooms in thehouse, a fire report said.

Fire officials estimate the cost to repair the damage at $38,000.

Jennifer Johnson, the head of the household, and the six children -- including one 6-month-old infant -- will be staying at a Jessup motel while they look for temporary housing, said Donald R. Howell, a county fire department spokesman.

The family's rent at the motel is being paid by the Howard County Professional Firefighters Association, a union that last year began a "VictimAssistance Fund" to help fire victims pay for temporary lodging, Howell said.

The fund, subsidized through donations and fund-raising activities, pays for up to three days of temporary housing. The Red Cross is helping the Johnson family find other housing.


A 39-year-old Columbia woman was robbed of $220Friday when two teen-age boys threatened her and grabbed her purse outside a Hickory Ridge automatic teller machine, county police said.

The woman had just withdrawn money from the First National Bank machine in the Hickory Ridge Plaza when the two approached her at 12:20a.m., police said.

One of the youths then made a threat and askedher to hand over her money, police said. The woman began to reach for her purse when they grabbed it from her.

Both youths left the scene without further incident. The victim was not injured, police said.


A nearly completed home under construction in Ellicott City was heavily damaged last weekend by vandals, who punched holes in the walls and pulled out carpets, toilets and a sink, county police said.

The vandals also turned on all the water faucets in the house, located in the 3500 block of Lame Beaver Court, causing water to collapse a ceiling, police said.

Police believe the vandals broke into the home sometime between Aug. 23and last Monday.

The damage was discovered by Randall Homes construction workers, who had nearly finished work on the two-story house,police said. A construction trailer at the site was also vandalized.

No motive has been determined. Damage to the home is estimated at$40,000, police said.

Randall Homes officials refused to comment on the incident.

Police said the malicious destruction may be related to three other vandalism incidents that occurred in the same areaover the weekend. In each of the incidents, a construction site was vandalized, police said.

*Other crimes reported to Howard County police:


5300 block Columbia Road: Aug. 27, a 1989 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle was reported stolen at 8 a.m. from a residentialparking lot.

6400 block Dobbin Center Way: Aug. 24, cash was reported stolen at 4 a.m. from a home entered when someone smashed open the front door.

6100 block Babylon Crest: Aug. 23, several pieces of jewelry were reported stolen at 7:15 p.m. after the thief pried open a sliding glass door.

10500 block Jason Lane: Aug. 22, a 1978 Datsun 280-Z automobile was stolen sometime before 5:45 p.m. from a residential area.

5900 block Turnabout Lane: Aug. 22, a television was stolen sometime before 11:55 p.m. by someone who entered a home through an unlocked front door.

6400 block Skyward Court: Aug. 22, a television and a videocassette recorder were stolen sometime before 11:55 p.m. by someone who entered a home through a rear basement window.


2300 block Marriottsville Road: Aug. 26, copper wire was stolen overnight from a trailer at a construction site.


7000 block Ducketts Lane: Aug. 22, a 1986 Merkur automobile was stolen overnight from a residential area. A 1986 Acura Legend automobile was reported stolen from the 7100 block the same evening.

6100 block Karas Walk: Aug. 22, a 1990 Honda Accord was stolen overnight from a residential area.

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