Two Gambrills brothers died in a two-alarm fire early yesterday that fire officials said was caused by a lighted candle.
Charles A. Feick V, 10, and his 5-year-old brother, Joshua K. Feick, of the 600 block of Cadbury Drive were pronounced dead at North Arundel Hospital about 5 a.m., an hour after the Fire Department was notified of the blaze, officials said.
John E. Feick, 8, and Stephen M. Feick, 7, were examined at the hospital and released. Their mother, 31-year-old Dawn Feick, was not injured, and their father, Charles, was at work at the time of the fire.
Anne Arundel Fire Chief John Scholz said the fire was started by a candle in a second-floor bedroom. Three of the boys were sleeping with their mother in another bedroom. The family had been using candles since Wednesday when their electricity was shut off.
Scholz said he did not know why anyone in the house was burning a candle before 4 a.m.
Neighbors who comforted the children while firefighters tried to revive their brothers said the boys were upset, talking about matches.
Sharon Phillip, a neighbor in the Chapelgate community of two-story duplex houses, said one of the boys "kept saying 'I didn't mean to burn the house, I didn't mean to burn Dad's bed.' "
Phillip said that before they knew their brothers had died, the boys babbled and cried as they sat in her family living room. They calculated their anticipated damages aloud: a "secret drawer" gone, their wallet and money destroyed, one of the boys' new pair of $100 glasses melted, their hamster, a memory.
When the fire started, the boys tried to put it out using a fire extinguisher, Phillip said. They couldn't reach a second extinguisher in the pantry. She said the boys then told their mother, who got them out of the house, but was unable to get back upstairs to save her other children.
According to neighbors, the Feick boys formed the core of a group of neighborhood kids who played tag, traded Pokemon cards and rode bicycles on the sidewalk in front of the houses.
Charles, the oldest, looked after his brothers. Joshua most enjoyed riding his bicycle -- a motorcycle-styled bike that he had mastered without training wheels.
Worried mothers choked back tears when they heard that Charles and Joshua had not survived.
"It's so sad," said neighbor Patti Thorne. "I was hoping that it would be OK, but it didn't look good."
According to Frank Neveroski, who shared the duplex with the Feicks, one of the boys knocked on his door shortly before 4 a.m.
"In the excitement all I saw was a child in his underwear, no shoes, and it was raining," he said. "I couldn't understand him at all, he was so excited."
Neveroski said the boy's mother followed, telling him to call 911 because there was a fire in the house. She told him two of her boys -- the heavy sleepers -- were in the master bedroom and she couldn't get them out. Neveroski tried going through the front door but could not. He got a ladder and tried climbing to a second-floor porch on the back side of the house.
"The room was full of smoke and heat," he said. "I tried to look in because that was the room they were supposed to be in, but I couldn't see them."
When firefighters arrived, they saw heavy smoke coming from the second floor, Scholz said. They found the boys upstairs, got them out of the house and performed CPR, he said, but were too late. Hospital officials said the boys were dead on arrival just before 5 a.m.
The fire was extinguished in less than 20 minutes, Scholz said.
Scholz said the electronic smoke detectors never sounded because the family's service was cut off. The alarms did not have battery backups, he said.
"It is unfortunate that this happened," said Brenda Pettigrew, a spokeswoman from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
"When a customer is experiencing difficulty, we want them to call. We can provide services that can help them, and there are extension services."
Neighbors set up a fund under the Feick name to collect money for the family. Donations can be made to Washington Savings Bank in the Odenton Shopping Center, 1163 Annapolis Road, 21113.