Remembering the Fuel Fund; Anne Arundel: Blaze that killed Gambrills brothers reminder of the need to help families pay for power.


ELECTRICITY WAS off at the Feick home in Gambrills last week, not because of the wrath of Hurricane Floyd, but because of failure to pay the utility bill. One of four brothers apparently lit a candle for light late at night. Their house caught fire. Two of the brothers, ages 5 and 10, died.

The news was gut-wrenching -- and gave people more reason to pay heed when the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland solicits donations this winter.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., after warning the family twice about failure to pay its bill, cut power to the home last Wednesday. Unfortunately, the family waited until electricity was terminated before contacting the company to ask for a reprieve, according to BGE. The fire occurred early the next day.

Time after time, families without lights or heat attempt alternatives that are unsafe: a kerosene heater, a stove door left open, candles kept burning while people sleep.

The community can help prevent such tragedy. The federally funded Maryland Energy Assistance Program contributes to needy families. And the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland operates under an agreement with BGE to split the costs of heating bills with the families.

The fund hopes to raise $1 million this year. That is substantially more than the $600,000 it has raised in previous years.

BGE customers will receive an envelope seeking contributions to the fund with their December and January bills. You need not wait that long: You can mail donations to the Fuel Fund of Central Maryland, 11 E. Chase St., Baltimore, MD, 21202. (Donations were also being collected on behalf of the Feick family at: Washington Savings Bank, Odenton Shopping Center, 1163 Annapolis Road, Odenton, MD, 21113.)

These contributions can help families keep warm this winter and possibly save lives.

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