UPDATE March 22, 2023, @ 6 p.m:
The house fire victims in Lexington Park on Monday morning have been identified as 59-year-old Jerome Garcia Barnes and 61-year-old Mary Jacqueline Queen. According to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, both died due to smoke inhalation.
Deputy State Fire Marshals have concluded that the fire originated in the basement. While the fire remains under investigation, they have not recovered evidence that it was an act of arson and continue to explore all possible accidental causes.
At around 1:20 a.m. on Monday, an occupant awoke to smoke and discovered a fire within the basement. The person who discovered the fire and two others escaped the two-story home.
Upon the arrival of firefighters, they were told two people were still trapped inside the home. They immediately located Barnes and Queen on the second floor. Investigators learned the home was being rented, and everyone within the home was related.
It took 40 firefighters from the Bay District Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding departments to control the one-alarm blaze.
The Office of the State Fire Marshals is working in collaboration with the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, which is a standard operating procedure whenever a fatal fire occurs.
State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci is urging all Marylanders to maintain smoke alarms in their homes, saying, “within the first three months of the new year, we’re seeing an uptick in tragedies associated with home fires across Maryland. We need families to be aware of the fire hazards in their homes and put into practice some straightforward safety tips.”
The tragic incident occurred after three children died in a Baltimore City fire last Saturday.
A team of investigators from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office are investigating a fatal dwelling fire that claimed two lives in the 21700 block of Cabot Place in Lexington Park. The incident occurred in the early morning hours of March 20, 2023.
According to reports, the first 911 call was received at 1:19 a.m. by an occupant who woke up to smoke and discovered a fire within the basement. The person who discovered the fire and two others managed to escape the two-story home.
Upon the arrival of firefighters, they were informed that two people were still trapped inside the home. The firefighters subsequently located the two victims on the second floor, identified as a male in his late 50s and a female in her early 60s. Despite the best efforts of the first responders, the victims were pronounced dead on the scene.
The Bay District Volunteer Fire Department and surrounding departments responded to the one-alarm blaze, which took 40 firefighters to control. Deputy State Fire Marshals remain on the scene and have confirmed the fire originated within the basement.
The victims’ bodies have been transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for further examination to determine the exact cause of death and for positive identification.
St. Mary’s Metropolitan Commission, the local water and sanitary department, is assisting with removing several feet of water from the home to enable investigators to safely enter the property and begin the investigation into the cause of the fire.
A joint investigation between the police agency having jurisdiction and the Office of the State Fire Marshal is standard operating procedure whenever a fatal fire occurs.
This is a developing story, and more information will be provided as it becomes available.