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Man Critically Injured After Allegany County Brush Fire

September 6th, 2023 by WCBC Radio

A 93-year-old man is in critical condition after a brush fire he was tending got out of his control. 

Charles W. Armstrong was flown to the Burn Center at MedStar Washington Hospital Center by Maryland State Police Aviation Tuesday afternoon with first, second, and third-degree burns to his body after becoming overcome while burning brush on his property in the 15100 block of Long Hill Drive in Cresaptown. 

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 and discovered Armstrong within the charred remains. They used two portable fire extinguishers to extinguish the fire, pulled Armstrong to safety, and called 911. 

Firefighters from Cresaptown Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding departments responded along with paramedics with Allegany County Department of Emergency Services, who initially treated Armstrong before he was transported by medevac to the DC area burn center, where he remains in critical condition. 

Deputy State Fire Marshal's preliminary investigation determined that Armstrong was burning brush when the fire extended beyond his control, and 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. 

Marylanders are reminded of safety and jurisdictional requirements when burning outdoors. Open-air burning is a fire where any material is burned in the open or a receptacle other than a furnace, incinerator, or other equipment connected to a stack or chimney. It also includes other fires, such as campfires.

If you must burn, take the time to ensure that all safety and regulatory precautions have been taken. Permits may be required for all open-air burning except for small recreational fires such as campfires. The permit from the Department of Natural Resources is in addition to and does not substitute for a permit from the local health department. For permit information, please call your local health department fire department or contact the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service Office at (410) 260-8531 or go online at

  • 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.
  • Check your local and state regulations before burning.

While the MDE 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.

The ban does not affect backyard barbeque grilling or open fires for recreational purposes, such as campfires. For more information on the burn ban, contact the Maryland Department of the Environment Office of Air Quality at (410) 537-3231.