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Woman dies in Greenbelt house fire

Fire officials believe the victim had safely evacuated but ran back inside to warn others

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Published on: Friday, January 04, 2013

By Jim Davis

Just three days after Christmas, tragedy struck a Greenbelt family when a fire erupted, killing an 86-year-old woman dead and sending two others to the hospital.

Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department responded to the fire just after 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28, at 2 Laurel Hill Road in Old Town Greenbelt. They encountered heavy smoke pouring out the front door of the two-story row house and heavy fire in the rear of the house on the first floor. Flames were also extending to the top floor and attic, and a family member still trapped inside.

As firefighters entered the house, they located the woman — Betty M. Starry — just several feet inside the house. She was suffering from third degree burns over 100 percent of her body. The 86-year-old was quickly removed from the burning house and turned over to paramedics, but it was too late. She was pronounced deceased by paramedics on the scene, fire officials said.

According to PGFD chief spokesman Mark Brady, Starry had initially escaped the fire, but she ran back inside to warn others.

Volunteer Fire Chief Thomas Ray, of Greenbelt Volunteer Fire Department, told The Sentinel this is only the second fatal fire in Greenbelt history to his knowledge. The city was founded in 1937.

Prior to firefighters arriving on the scene, a man jumped from his second floor window to safety. He suffered injuries to his lower body and was transported to a local hospital along with a female who also suffered minor injuries, Brady said.

Firefighters brought the blaze under control in 25 minutes with no other injuries reported.

Damage to the home and two other row houses is estimated at $50,000. Three adults and two children who live in adjoining homes were also displaced by the fire but were not injured, Brady said.

Fire investigators were on the scene for several hours. As of Jan. 2, the cause of the fire was still unknown.

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