Fire routs family of 7 in Westminster House is gutted; all escape harm


A two-alarm fire gutted a house in Westminster last night. The family of seven was displaced but all escaped unharmed.

Seventy-five firefighters rushed to the two-story home at 20 E. George St. about 6:15 p.m. and found the house in flames, said Bob Cumberland, a spokesman with the Westminster Fire Department.

"The building was pretty much involved when we arrived," he said. "There was heavy fire on the second floor and lots of smoke."

Firefighters and 14 pieces of equipment from the Westminster, Reese, Pleasant Valley, Hampstead, Manchester and Winfield stations brought the blaze under control by 7:26 p.m., said Dave Nelson, an operator with the county emergency operations center.

The house was occupied by Penepii and Randy Rill and their five children, ages 4 to 12.

Mrs. Rill, 25, stood with dozens of people last night across the street from her home, watching it burn. She and her husband, 29, had lived in the house for four years.

Mrs. Rill said she was cooking dinner when she turned around and saw that the hall closet was on fire.

"I screamed for my kids and my husband, and by the time I got them out the door the fire had spread across the stairway to the living room and dining room," she said.

She said the smoke detector didn't go off.

Mrs. Rill, an art student at Carroll Community College, said she lost all her artwork and she's not sure whether her blind cat escaped.

"My whole first semester is shot; there's no way I'll be able to make it up," she said. "But I feel like I took care of the most important things -- I got my family out."

The Rills planned to stay with relatives last night, and the Red Cross is helping the family find housing.

Gary Pearson, minister with Westminster Church of Christ, said the church will be accepting donations of money, clothing and food for the Rill family.

Donations can be dropped off at the church at 67 Madison St. For more information, call 848-1064.

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