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Smoking Caused The Graw Fire, Reports Fire Marshal

A man was on oxygen and smoking when his chair caught fire, according to a statement from the Maryland Fire Marshal's Office.

A fire at The Graw apartments Thursday afternoon began when a man was smoking a cigarette while on oxygen, according to the State Fire Marshal.

In a statement issued Friday, the Maryland State Fire Marshal said that the fire at 100 Revolution Street, which burned the man and caused thousands in damage, started with the resident smoking in his living room chair.

A neighbor in the 66-unit apartment building reported the fire at 2:40 p.m. on Dec. 6, according to the statement. The Graw is a Section 8 building for elderly, handicapped or disabled individuals, its voicemail states.

Before firefighters' arrival at 2:43 p.m., the man in the apartment, who has not been identified, was brought outside, Susquehanna Hose Company Chief Scott Hurst told Patch.

Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps transported the man in serious but stable condition to Harford Memorial Hospital. He sustained second-degree burns to his face, hands and right foot, according to the fire marshal.

"The subject was sitting in a chair and connected to an oxygen tube and was smoking," Mark Bilger, deputy chief for the State Fire Marshal, said of how the fire began.

"The heat or flame from the cigarette ignited his oxygen, which resulted in the tubing and everything burning," Bilger said.

On Thursday afternoon, firefighters and police converged on the six-story apartment building to rescue those inside.

"When the call came out, our officers, including the chief, responded and entered the building...to aid in getting residents out," Jeff Gilpin, spokesman for the Havre de Grace Police Department, said. 

"One officer was helping residents down the fire escape to avoid the fire and smoke on the second floor," Gilpin continued. "A couple of other officers stayed with some that could not get out...to ensure their safety and to help calm them."

Six apartments were deemed uninhabitable Thursday, according to the chief of the Susquehanna Hose Company, who led the rescue operation. 

The American Red Cross, Harford County Division of Emergency Operations and the Disaster Assistance Team assisted those who had been displaced.

The Graw sustained $100,000 in structural damage and $25,000 in damage to items inside, according to the fire marshal's press release.

Approximately 70 firefighters assisted in putting out the two-alarm fire, from the Susquehanna Hose Company, Level Volunteer Fire Company, Aberdeen Fire Department, Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire Department and the Community Fire Company of Perryville. According to Bilger of the fire marshal's office, the fire began in the man's living room chair and did not spread.

Ellen Eltgroth December 08, 2012 at 01:10 PM
Does anyone else feel any anger at the incredible recklessness of this man?
Shannon M. Malat December 08, 2012 at 04:41 PM
You betcha! He put my Mom and many other people at risk. Unacceptable!
James P. Miller December 09, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Was there a working smoke detector? How about a sprinkler?
Dave Ross December 09, 2012 at 06:45 AM
How did this guy live to be an "elderly man"? Clearly "Darwins's Law" was not operating.
Wendy May 06, 2013 at 03:51 AM
I have a friend who is concerned because her mother is on oxygen and her dad continues to smoke in the house. Could she be charged for not reporting this to the authorities if she knows this is happening. Knowing that her dad could potentially blow them all up by smoking around her mom who is on oxygen?

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