With 88 year old Oskar Craig Reynolds (he went by Craig) and his 84 year old wife, Patricia, dead, this makes the elderly the victims of all 4 fatal fires this year in Montgomery County. While it fits a sad trend (since January, 2005, 12 of 13 deaths were seniors), the cause of the fire is the odd part of this story.
Smoking has been blamed on 80 per cent of the fatal fires involving the elderly in the County. Craig and Pat Reynolds didn't smoke. Investigators say the couple also didn't have candles and didn't leave anything on the stove. But the fire did start in the kitchen. So far the investigators say they have ruled out just about everything except the refrigerator. Yes, spokesman Pete Piringer says that fire investigators are looking at the possibility that the fire was caused by the refrigerator's motor. They are waiting for more testing before providing definitive word.
David Reynolds, the couple's son, told me that the refrigerator is brand new and was installed on Friday.
Pete Piringer says the house did not have smoke alarms.
Piringer also points out that the number of fire deaths for the County is actually low considering the population. But this trend of senior deaths is so alarming that a statement was released today from Pete's boss. Not Fire Chief Tom Carr, who has spoken many times on this subject, but County Executive Ike Leggett. Here are a few excerpts from the statement:
"Of the 13 fire fatalities that have occurred in the past three years in Montgomery County, 12 were senior citizens. This puts us far above the national average.
"In response to this unfortunate trend, a Senior Citizen Fire Safety Task Force was created in March 2006 and charged with submitting to the County Executive recommended strategies and procedures designed to reduce the risk of fire-related deaths and injuries to our older residents in Montgomery County. The Task Force has been hard at work, meeting weekly, to fulfill their mission, and I look forward to receiving their report within the coming weeks.
"In the wake of the tragic fire this morning, I urge all residents to check and double check their smoke alarms and access the numerous fire safety tips online by visiting www.montgomerycountymd.gov/firerescue <http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/firerescue> and click on "Safety in Our Neighborhood."