Firefighters responded to the two-alarm blaze around 5:07 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14 at 144 Bowery Street in Frostburg.
Fire officials say three other male students who lived inside the house have been accounted for. Two were able to escape, and were taken to Western Maryland Health Center for minor injuries. The other was not home at the time of the fire.
Firefighters located the victim at the base of the steps, in the living room.
"It's just so heartbreaking to know one of my neighbors passed away, and I feel so bad for this mom and it's Valentine's Day. That's the worst thing she wants to get a call at five in the morning that your son's house is on fire, please come up to Frostburg," said Shayna Sandbank, senior at Frostburg State University.About 75 firefighters from Allegany and Garrett Counties responded to the scene. Officials say there is no indication the weather directly hindered firefighter's response.
"There was a kitchen area and a living room area back there, so we're going through all those possible ignition sources. And we have to methodically eliminate and consider each one as we go so part of what our investigators are doing at this time is try to hone in to that specific area and the possible causes," said Chief Jason Mowbray, Deputy Fire Marshal.The two story family home was converted into a college rental, and is owned by Judy Knieriem. The home is considered a complete loss with partial collapse of the second floor and the first floor.
Officials say due to the severity of injuries, the victim's body will be transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to determine official identity, and cause of death.
Students in the area tell WHAG they are shaken up over this tragedy. One of the neighboring houses does have some surface damage due to the fire.
"We had another tragic fire where two students perished in an apartment that was over a pizza shop here on Main Street, about two years maybe three years ago. And that's a hard reminder as far as the importance of insuring code compliance and those types of regulations. And at this point in our investigation we have reached out to the Frostburg City Government and asked for copies of their inspection reports and any potential violations, as far as that goes," said Mowbray.Fire officials say the home was equipped with a smoke alarm, but it has not been determined if it activated and notified the students.
Students say this incident raises major safety concerns.
"I don't know if I feel safe. I'm more scared and I want to make sure our landlords come by and ask checking the safety of our home, and making sure we're inspected because these homes are so old. I just want to know we'll be okay," said Sandbank.The origin and cause of the fire remains under investigation.
Allegeny County's Combined County Criminal Investigation Unit, Frostburg City Police, and Frostburg State University Police are assisting in the investigation.