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Fatal Halfway fire caused by smoking materials

FEB 24, 2021

HALFWAY — A fatal fire Tuesday afternoon in Halfway was caused by discarded smoking materials, Master Deputy State Fire Marshal Ed Ernst said Wednesday morning. It was the second fatal fire in Washington County this year. There's evidence the man found dead in the Fleetwood Prowler Travel Trailer died due to the fire, but Ernst said he is waiting for autopsy results to issue an official cause of death. Story By: Herald-Mail Julie Greene

The man was 56 years old. The victim's body will be sent to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore to determine the exact cause of death and make a positive identification. His name won't be released until then, authorities said.

The fire was previously reported by the state fire marshal's office as a house fire. But, the fire occurred in the travel trailer parked by a family member's residence in the 17000 block of York Road, fire officials said. That area is off Halfway Boulevard.

Family members checked on the man daily and found him fine Monday evening, Ernst said. When they checked Tuesday, they opened the door to find smoke and the man deceased. The initial call to 911 was for cardiac arrest, he said. The incident was reported at 4:38 p.m. Tuesday. When emergency responders arrived they pronounced the man dead, Ernst said. There were no signs on the outside of the trailer of a fire, he said. "The fire basically burned itself out. It didn't have enough oxygen to continue and smoldered out," Ernst said.

The man might have fallen asleep while smoking and dropped the smoking material, Ernst said. There was evidence he had fallen asleep in the past while smoking — previous burns in the futon that the family had seen before Tuesday, he said.

Ernst said he found an ashtray full of cigarette filters next to the futon. Cigarette filters don't completely burn. Ernst said people need to make sure all smoking materials are extinguished and they have working smoke alarms. The trailer's smoke alarm contained a dead battery, he said.

Halfway Volunteer Fire Co., the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the state fire marshal's office responded.
Story By: Julie Greene of the Herald-Mail

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