Woman injured, house damaged in Finksburg fire Off-duty firefighters working next door come to her rescue


A 31-year-old Finksburg woman was seriously injured when a fire caused extensive damage to her home at about 11 a.m. yesterday.

Authorities identified the woman as Charlene Davis Harliss of the 2800 block of Baltimore Blvd.

Vincent Fannon and Brian Hopkins, members of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Department who were working next door, smelled smoke and ran to the house.

They tended the victim and tried to fight the fire with a garden hose until medics and other firefighters arrived.

Medics from the Gamber Volunteer Fire Company responded within a few minutes to calls Mr. Hopkins and another man made on their cellular phones, Mr. Hopkins said.

"I told him to tell them there was a woman burned, injured and needed a medic," Mr. Hopkins said of the other man with the cellular phone. "That's probably why they responded so quickly."

Flames and heavy smoke were coming out of the windows as Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Fannon ran to the back of the building, said Mr. Hopkins, who owns Hopkins and Associates Construction Co.

They then saw Mrs. Harliss leaving the building, he said.

"She was burned around the face and the top of her head and was bleeding pretty heavily from one arm," Mr. Hopkins said. "We asked her what happened, and she was somewhat coherent but not very talkative."

Mrs. Harliss sat on the ground clutching her cut wrist to her chest and said she had been asleep when the fire began, Mr. Hopkins said.

When medics arrived, they worked on Mrs. Harliss for about 25 minutes before she was transported by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Fire officials said Mrs. Harliss was being treated for burns, smoke and heat inhalation injuries, and a severe laceration.

A deputy state fire marshal said yesterday that Mrs. Harliss was being treated in the trauma center's hyperbaric chamber, a high-pressure chamber that is used to force oxygen into a patient's lungs and dissipate smoke into the tissue, where it can be discarded as waste.

Mr. Hopkins said that when the medics arrived, he and Mr. Fannon began trying to control the flames by shutting the back door of the house and shooting water through the window with a garden hose.

"We couldn't get inside. The smoke was banked down too heavily," Mr. Hopkins said. "But there was no one else inside, so there was no reason for us to go in."

Firefighters from Reese, Gamber, Glyndon and Reisterstown contained the blaze about 45 minutes after they arrived, he said.

Some 60 percent of the house was damaged.

"It was not completely gutted, but it was heavily charred," he said. "The fire had gotten into the partitions, broken through one pane of glass and rolled through the attic."

Frank M. Rauschenberg, a deputy state fire marshal, arrived at the scene with the first firefighting units. He said the blaze apparently started in the family room, but the cause is still under investigation.

Medic units from Gamber and Reese and the air unit from Lineboro responded to the blaze.

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