Officials investigate cause of death, fire at abandoned house -- Gazette.Net


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This story was updated at 10:47 a.m. Nov. 29, 2012.

Prince George’s County firefighters found a severely burned body in an Upper Marlboro house that caught fire early Wednesday, and officials are now trying to figure out what caused the fire and the person’s death.

Around 2:30 a.m., firefighters responded to a shuttered home in the 51000 block of Buck Lane in Upper Marlboro. The blaze was extinguished from the outside in about 45 minutes, and fire officials began putting out remaining hot spots and clearing out debris when they discovered the body, said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the fire/EMS department.

In a joint investigation, fire and police officials are trying to determine whether the person died as a result of the blaze or if the person was already deceased.

Fire Chief Marc Bashoor said the body was too severely burned to determine an identity.

“It was just too bad to determine whether it was male, female or their age … just badly, badly burned,” Bashoor said.

Bashoor said in any type of similar fire, there is always the possibility that firefighters may discover additional bodies as debris is cleared, but by Wednesday afternoon no other bodies had been discovered.

He said fire officials believe it was a vagrant who had been staying with several others inside the home, which he said has been vacant since at least March, based on what firefighters have seen when passing the shuttered home for other calls for service in the area.

Bashoor said there was a previous fire at the house in April, which is why it had already been boarded up.

He said neighbors told authorities that they had seen at least two or three people living in the house.

Upper Marlboro resident Mark Wildy, 53, said he lives one street away from where the fire took place and said he didn’t know anyone had been staying at the home he frequently passes.

“This place is so isolated. I wouldn’t want to try to live out here. It’s just so rural,” he said.

Bashoor said the home appeared to be a prominent location for vagrants and said Upper Marlboro is also a notable place for homeless persons as with any other county seat around the nation.

“County seats are sometimes where people gravitate. They may come here and feel they can get more attention to their cause,” he said.

Arson has not been ruled out as a cause, but Bashoor said there is not yet indication to determine whether the blaze was deliberate or accidental.

Per department tradition for fire fatalities, firefighters spent Wednesday morning going door-to-door to houses in the area to deliver fire safety information.

djgross@gazette.net