Careless smoking caused an early morning fire yesterday in Brooklyn Park that killed one woman, injured four other people and destroyed a house in the 100 block of W. Seventh Ave., fire officials said.
Gaynelle LeMaster, 73, was in her second-floor bedroom when the fire broke out. She was pronounced dead at the scene, said Chief Gary Sheckells of the Anne Arundel County Fire Department.
Mrs. LeMaster's husband, Ernest LeMaster, 78, and their son, Ernest LeMaster Jr., 48, and daughter, Teena Boudris, 47, were treated at Harbor Hospital Center for minor burns and smoke inhalation. All were released. All lived in the house on West Seventh Avenue, Chief Sheckells said.
One firefighter who complained of back pain was also treated at Harbor Hospital and released, the spokesman said.
Mrs. LeMaster and both the men were asleep in separate bedrooms on the second floor. Ms. Boudris was sleeping on the couch downstairs. She had been reading and smoking before falling asleep, according to Chief Sheckells. Fire investigators said the blaze started in the couch.
Chief Sheckells said the fire was reported at 12:51 a.m. Firefighters found Ms. Boudris, Mr. LeMaster and his son outside and the 2 1/2 -story bungalow engulfed in flames when they arrived 4 1/2 minutes later. The family told police that Mrs. LeMaster was still in the house.
The officers tried to rescue her, but were turned back by the smoke and heat, said Officer Randy Bell, a county police spokesman.
"A smoke detector on the first floor would have sounded before the one on the second floor and may have provided additional time for everyone to leave the house," said Chief Sheckells.
Mrs. LeMaster's death is the fourth fire-related fatality in the county this year and comes at a time when firefighters are going door-to-door providing tips on smoke detector maintenance. In low-income areas, the department is also giving out free batteries for smoke detectors and installing smoke detectors in homes, Chief Sheckells said.