Silver Spring Fire Fatality

A 67-year-old Silver Spring woman died on Saturday, Feb. 9 from injuries sustained when her clothing caught fire on Feb. 7 while she was cooking. She’s the first fire fatality of the year, a fire official said.

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel were dispatched at 10:45 a.m. to the 8500 block of 11th Avenue in Silver Spring on Feb. 7 for the report of a kitchen fire with one occupant burned. Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire and paramedics rushed the woman to a local burn specialty center in critical condition.

Investigators were requested to the scene and have determined that the woman’s clothing was accidentally ignited when it came in contact with a stove burner while she was cooking. The victim’s son rushed to her aid after hearing her screams and attempted to smother the flames. The son sustained minor burns. The cause of the fire is listed as accidental and caused an estimated $500 in damages.

“Katherine Elizabeth McNeal, sadly, became another statistic: a senior citizen who died in a house fire,” said Fire Chief Richie Bowers. “Tragically, elderly residents are a demographic heavily over-represented in fatal house fires. Our firefighters continue to canvas neighborhoods through our door-to-door safety campaign designed to promote fire safety awareness and the proper use of smoke alarms. We’ll install smoke alarms and check batteries for anyone in the community. We’re here to help.”

Cooking fires are the most common causes of home fires and home fire injuries. Pans left on the stove unattended and clothing that comes in contact with stove-top burners are top causes of kitchen fires. Here are some tips to help keep your kitchen a safe place:

  • Keep flammable items like dishtowels, paper bags and cereal boxes away from your stove. Don’t use your oven as ‘extra storage’ for flammable items like paper or plastic bags, plastic containers or dishtowels.
  • Turn pot handles toward the center of the stove when cooking on the stove top.
  • Pots and handles should never hang over the edge of the stove where someone could bump into them. This is one of the major causes of serious burns in children and elderly people.
  • It only takes a minute for a small fire to turn into a major fire. Don’t leave things cooking on the stove top unattended and regularly check on food cooking in the oven.
  • Avoid wearing clothes with long, loose-fitting sleeves that may catch fire easily.
  • If your clothing catches fire, don’t run. STOP, DROP AND ROLL!
  • If a pot catches fire on the stove, turn off the burner and cover the pot with a lid or cookie sheet.

A properly installed and working smoke alarm is the only thing that can alert you and your family of a home fire 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you’re awake or asleep, it’s constantly scanning the air for fire and smoke. Smoke alarm batteries should be replaced annually, or as recommended by the manufacturer, and ALL smoke alarm units should be replaced every 10 years.

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