‘Too sad to believe’: Bowers Beach residents reeling after deadly blaze

Arriving Bowers Fire Co. crews found the home engulfed in flames, officials said. The company run log indicated the call was received at 12:14 a.m. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

BOWERS BEACH — Neighbors were still reeling on Wednesday morning, nearly 36 hours after witnessing Delaware’s first fatal fire of 2020.

The blaze — reported just after midnight Tuesday in a unit block residence on GRM Drive — brought the death of an 87-year-old man and smoke inhalation for the 39-year-old female relative he lived with, authorities said.

Thaddeus Phillips, who lives two house trailers down from the scene next to Bowers Beach Road, recalled being awakened by screams and said “everyone was out there. We all tried to get inside and save him, but the heat and flames were just impossible to get through.”

Mr. Phillips said he remained shaken up and “what I saw and heard that night still hurts me on the inside.”

While all residents in the 13-home development aren’t necessarily close friends, Perla Perez said “If we need each other we go knock on their doors.”

Said Mr. Phillips, “People here wake up, go to work, come home and just try to survive each day the best they can. To have something like this happen here is just so sad.

“It’s too sad to believe, really.”

Kim Mace, who was visiting her friend Kim McDermott, choked back tears while recalling efforts to break into the burning home with a 2-by-4 piece of wood; a resident was nearby trying to find a way inside as well, she said.

“The first thing I saw was flames in the wall and a girl came out and had a guy call 911,” she said. “I ran toward the home and the fire just started roaring and rumbling. It was engulfed in just a few seconds after that.”

Arriving Bowers Fire Co. crews found the home engulfed in flames, officials said. The company run log indicated the call was received at 12:14 a.m.

The deceased man was found inside the trailer, and the woman was transported to the Bayhealth Hospital Sussex Campus in good condition, authorities said.

Ms. Mace didn’t know the victims, but was traumatized just the same.

“I feel bad for them because they’re human beings and you hate to see anyone suffer like that,” she said, again trying to hold emotions in check.

“The whole thing is just devastating and I’m still having a lot of trouble with it.”

On Tuesday, Delaware Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said the blaze’s origin and cause were under investigation. Damage was estimated at $50,000.