Fire kills toddler, injures 7 in Lincoln

DOVER — At least four separate fires broke out downstate this week with one causing the death of a 2-year-old boy and injuring seven in Lincoln on Thursday evening.

In addition, a devastating fire on Christmas night destroyed two beachfront homes on Bay Avenue in Slaughter Beach.

That fire was estimated to have caused $500,000 worth of damage and, as of Friday afternoon, remains under investigation by the State Fire Marshal’s office.

Other fires were reported on Thursday in Felton and Lewes.

As of Friday afternoon, the marshal’s office was still investigating the cause of the Lincoln fire.

“A two-year-old boy was killed in the fire and seven other people were injured — they were treated and released from the Milford Memorial Hospital afterward,” said assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio.

A look at each of the fires:

Lincoln fire

A fire was reported on Thursday morning around 10 a.m. on the 9200 block of East Mayhew Drive off Fleatown Road in Lincoln. Firefighters arrived on the scene to find flames shooting from a two-story dwelling, said the Fire Marshal’s office.

Several fire departments responded and it was reported that people were trapped in the building. Firefighters attempted a rescue of a person thought to be trapped on the second floor, but found later the person had already escaped prior to the firefighters’ arrival, noted Ellendale Fire Department.

As crews began trying to enter the basement to attempt the next rescue, structural conditions began failing and the roof and second floor of the building started to collapse.

The responding fire departments declared the fire under control shortly after 11 a.m. and the fire victim — a two-year-old boy — was located. The fire caused an estimated $250,000 worth of damage.

Felton fire

Just after 11 p.m. on Thursday, a fire was reported on the 500 block of Berrytown Road west of Felton by a passing motorist, according to the Fire Marshal’s office.

The burning structure was vacant and no injuries were reported. Shortly after midnight, the responding fire departments declared the fire under control.

The property in question, part of the Healing Hands Christian Church, was the victim of an arson fire in Dec. 2014.

The building damaged in the Thursday night fire was not affected by the 2014 arson, though.

The Fire Marshal’s office completed its investigation and reported the recent incident originated on the building’s exterior and was the result of an electric service feed failure and was ruled accidental in nature.

An energized electrical line was suspected to have ignited ground cover next to the structure. The fire caused an estimated $25,000 worth of damage.

Lewes fire

Earlier Thursday evening, around 7 p.m., the Rehoboth Beach Volunteer Fire Company responded to a vehicle fire on Maple Lane, in West Bay Park off Camp Arrowhead Road.

A few minutes later, the call was upgraded to a structure fire. Three structures and a golf cart were reported to have been on fire. The responding fire departments were able to quickly get the blaze under control and keep it confined. No injuries were reported.

Fire season

A death, multiple injuries and nearly a $1 million worth of combined damage from the four fires ends 2017 on a tragic note.

According to Mr. Chionchio, it’s not unusual to see an up-tick in fires this time of season.

“The cold has finally caught up to us and we’re starting to get a lot of fires due to that,” he said. “When it gets cold, we see things like fireplace ashes igniting cardboard boxes, heater malfunctions or things being left too close to heaters. These are just some situations you don’t have during the warmer months.”

Mr. Chionchio noted that risk factors such as wind often drive smaller fires from structure to structure, and can reignite seemingly extinguished fires.

Also, freezing temperatures can create hazards for firefighters and cause hose lines to freeze.

“There are hazards, but our fire departments are well prepared — we’ve been fighting fires in the winter time for over 100 years so we have adapted to conditions,” he said. “As soon as it dips to around 30 to 20 degrees we can start expecting more fires.

“Whenever we hear weather forecasters say the word ‘wind chill,’ we get ready. There are a number of factors at work, but when we get into colder temperatures, there are just more people inside using heaters.”

Mr. Chionchio said exercising basic fire safety procedures is a year-round practice, but it’s especially important during winter months.

“Keep things three feet away from any type of heater, don’t use portable space heaters overnight or while your away from home and make sure to keep pets away from them,” he said.

“Also, make sure to have your chimneys cleaned professionally and don’t overloading your electrical outlets with decorations. We always recommend having a home fire escape plan in place as well. Share it and go over it with your family, but also any visiting relative or kids coming home for the holidays from school.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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