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May 31, 2005

Deaf man rescued from fire despite misunderstanding

From: Hagerstown Morning Herald - Hagerstown,MD,USA - May 31, 2005

from staff reports

A deaf man in an Avalon Avenue apartment Monday morning was apparently stunned when neighbors broke down his door to rescue him from a fire next door, Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Justin Mayhue said.

Neighbors forced entry into the 51 Avalon Ave. apartment at about 5 a.m. Monday after seeing smoke coming from the bedroom of the building's other two-story apartment, which was in the back of the building, Mayhue said.

"A man inside put his hands up. Apparently he thought he was being robbed," Mayhue said. "The guy resists, so they got him in a bear hug and brought him outside. It turns out the man was deaf."

Mayhue said there was no one in the back apartment when the fire started, which "was good for them because they wouldn't have survived."

There were at least two people in the front apartment who were deaf and two children who could hear, he said. He said there was another adult in the apartment who could hear.

Everyone was evacuated before firefighters arrived, he said.

He said he was grateful the neighbors took the initiative to get people out of the building.

"We would have had to go in and get them out, which would have slowed us down in attacking the fire," he said. "We managed to rescue four cats from the front apartment ... I've got some wounds to prove it."

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Mayhue said.

"It was knocked down pretty quickly," Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Myers said Monday.

Myers said the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross was called to assist.

He said firefighters returned from the site about two hours after they were called to the scene.

The fire was confined to one room, Myers said.

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