Panel to Review Fatal Maryland Blaze That Injured 3 Firefighters

May 6, 2008
Montgomery County's chief said a special review panel will study all aspects of the fatal Rockville fire.

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Montgomery County Fire Chief Tom Carr said a special review panel will study all aspects of the fatal Rockville fire that also seriously injured three firefighters Saturday morning.

A resident died in the fire at the Halpine View Apartments in the 12800 block of Twinbrook Parkway. Two firefighters remain hospitalized.

Firefighter Mark Mechlin was released from a hospital Monday. Capt. R. Dwayne Dutrow, 38, a 17-year veteran, and firefighter James Heikka, 31, an eight-year veteran, remain in the Washington Hospital Center's burn unit. They are expected to survive.

The firefighters put out a mayday call just seconds before the floor beneath them collapsed while they were fighting the fire at the three-story garden apartment building. Fire officials said the men felt the floor buckling and knew something was about to go wrong before the entire bedroom floor caved in.

Investigators said it is very unusual for an entire floor to collapse. They are examining the building's structure.

Firefighters arrived at the scene at about 1 a.m. to find heavy flames and smoke. Dutrow and Heikka entered the building on the third floor along with Mechlin, who has been with the department about a year.

While they were battling the blaze, which investigators think had been burning for some time, the floor collapsed. They fell to the second floor, where the fire was raging.

Dutrow and Heikka jumped out a window to safety, but Mechlin was trapped beneath debris. He was still holding the fire hose, however, and fought back the flames until help arrived.

Rescuers found the body of 50-year-old Timothy Moran in a second-floor apartment. Investigators think the fire started in his apartment and that he died of smoke inhalation and burns.

Investigators said smoking may have started the blaze, which caused more than $1 million in damages.

It was Montgomery County's third fatal fire this year.

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