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Cresaptown Man Dies From Fire Injuries

September 6th, 2023 by WCBC Radio

A 93-year-old Cresaptown man has died from burn injuries he sustained yesterday after a brush fire he was tending inadvertently got beyond his control. 

Charles W. Armstrong passed away this morning at MedStar Washington Hospital Burn Center after being treated for first, second, and third-degree burns to his body. 

Deputy State Fire Marshal's preliminary investigation determined that Armstrong was burning brush on his property in the 15100 block of Long Hill Drive when the fire extended beyond his control. Heavy smoke and flames impeded his ability to move away safely. There is no evidence that Armstrong was using an accelerant such as gasoline to assist in the burning of the brush. 

The fire was discovered by an employee of American Insurance Center at around 1:30 p.m. after he observed smoke in the area and deployed his aerial drone to investigate where the smoke was coming from. After observing a fire on the property, he and another man drove to the home, where they discovered Armstrong had collapsed within the charred remains. They used portable fire extinguishers to extinguish the fire, pulled Armstrong to safety, and called 911. 

Paramedics with the Allegany County Department of Emergency Services initially treated Armstrong for his injuries, and he was later flown by Maryland State Police Trooper 5 to the burn center. 

"My heart breaks for the family of Mr. Armstrong," said State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci, "This is a horrific situation that demonstrates the hot weather and dry conditions are not exaggerated, and they affect every one of us. We continuously stress the importance of fire safety within the home; however, Marylanders must also be mindful of the extreme dangers associated with burning outdoors. Doing any activity involving fire right now can lead to tragedy for you, your loved ones, your neighbors, and your community."

While the Maryland Department of Environment open burn ban is in effect annually between June 1 and September 1, this is a tragic reminder of having the proper safeguards and checking the weather before outdoor burning.

Tips for open-air burning include:

  • Don't burn on wind days
  • Have hand tools and a ready water supply on-site
  • Never leave the fire unattended.
  • Clear the area around the site for a minimum of ten feet.
  • Burn at a safe distance (25' or more) from your home, shed, or other structures.
  • Never use gasoline! Gasoline fumes can ignite and cause serious injury and possible death.