Space heater blamed for early morning Dover fire; 16 displaced

On Friday morning, a resident sifts through the burned remains of a destroyed residence in Dover’s Grandview Mobile Home Park. (Delaware State News/Cindy Small)

On Friday morning, a resident sifts through the burned remains of a destroyed residence in Dover’s Grandview Mobile Home Park. (Delaware State News/Cindy Small)

DOVER — Roughly seven hours after a devastating early morning mobile home park left his home condemned, Thomas Madura was taking it the best he could.

“I’m glad to be alive,” said Mr. Madura, a resident of the Grandview Mobile Home Park for approximately 50 years.

“I’m glad that everyone else is alive.”

An accidental fire caused by a portable space heater destroyed three mobile homes and displaced 16 people (eight adults, eight children) Friday, according to the Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office. The blaze was reported at approximately 2:30 a.m. and an investigation is underway, spokesman Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio said.

There were no reported injuries, according the authorities.

At 9:30 a.m., residents, neighbors and family members milled around the area at 1492 N. Little Creek Road, trading stories of the inferno and picking through the burned ashes to find anything salvageable. A smoky smell wafted in the air near what remained of the homes.

Karen Rivera, who lived in the mobile home where the fire originated, said she wasn’t sure what she and eight family members would do now that their residence was destroyed.

“It’s devastating, it’s sad,” she said. “I just don’t know what else to say. We don’t know what we’ll do.”

Ms. Rivera recollected waking up in the middle of the night to check on her coughing 11-year-old brother. After thinking she smelled smoke, her brother said a fire was burning inside the home.

An early morning fire Friday destroyed three mobile homes in the Dover community of Grandview, off North Little Creek Road. (Dover Fire Department)

An early morning fire Friday destroyed three mobile homes in the Dover community of Grandview, off North Little Creek Road. (Dover Fire Department)

The blaze became unmanageable and Ms. Rivera said all family members exited the residence within five minutes.

The Fire Marshal’s office said in a news release that a portable space heater malfunctioned causing the ignition of combustible items inside a bedroom.

“Tragedy was averted when a sleeping juvenile in the bedroom began choking on the smoke and woke up his sibling,” according to the news release.

“There were no smoke alarms inside the house trailer where the fire originated.”

In the mobile home next door, Mr. Madura awoke to his barking dog, assumed the pet was riled up by someone walking nearby and told the pet to “shut up.”

He got up when the barking continued, looked outside, and saw flames shooting out one window of his neighbor’s home.

“That’s when I got my wife up and left with her and the dog to get away,” he said. “We forgot to get our parakeet out, but someone was able to find it.”

The Maduras moved across the street to safety, and watched the response unfold. He said Dover and state police were at the scene almost immediately, along with an ambulance and what he described as “emergency” responders.

The Dover Fire Department arrived a few minutes later, he said, and was able to extinguish the blaze in an estimated 15 minutes.

“They all did a great job with it,” he said.

Assistance provided

Mutual aid was provided by Little Creek and Cheswold volunteer fire companies, with Smyrna and Magnolia providing cover at the vacant two stations, officials said.

The Fire Marshal estimated damage at $30,000 and said the American Red Cross arrived to assist the victims with shelter and supplies.

Mr. Madura said his home suffered significant siding damage to the fire’s close proximity that caused exterior melting, roof and water damage. He was packing up his belongings Friday morning to stay with family. Because of the home’s age, there was no available insurance, he said.

If not for a wind blowing the fire away from his residence, Mr. Madura said, the damage would have been far more severe.

Not so fortunate was Esteban Garcia and his four family members, whose home on the south side of the original blaze was destroyed when it spread.

Taking questions through a Spanish interpreter, Mr. Garcia said, “I feel sad.”

Johanna Garcia, 13 and in seventh grade, said she woke up and thought “Oh My God” to herself before calling police. She said that her family met with the American Red Cross and went to a local motel for lodging at about 6:30 a.m.

“I called police, and didn’t know that someone else already had,” Johanna said.

Family member Bill Green arrived after the blaze with a Secure Self Storage moving truck donated to load and move some of the Maduras’ property to a storage space in New Castle.

“I got a call at 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “That’s not the way to start a day.”

Sylvia Green, who grew up in her Madura parents home, surveyed the scene and said, “It looked like a bomb went off.”

Long gone were the days when the neighborhood was dotted with apple trees, playground swing sets, pavement and a grassy area where kids could play, Ms. Green said.

“I have a lot of good memories of this being a nice place to live,” she said.

“Kids would play together all the time and the neighbors all knew each other and helped each other out … To see this today, it’s hard.”

Attempts to reach Grandview Park management were not immediately successful.

$25K damage in Felton fire

FELTON — The Delaware State Fire Marshal’s office said an accidental Friday morning barn fire caused an estimated $25,000 in damage.

The Felton Community Fire Company responded to the 1200 block of Sandtown Road for a structure on fire shortly after 1:30 a.m., according to spokesman Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio. Firefighters encountered a 40-foot by 60-foot barn ablaze, authorities said.

Mr. Chionchio said there were no reported injuries.

Authorities said investigation found that faulty electrical wiring inside the building sparked the blaze.

 

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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