- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

Lit cigarettes caused two house fires within hours of each other during the weekend, killing four persons, including a 9-year-old Prince George’s County boy.

A woman, her son and great-grandson died in a blaze at about midnight in Fairmount Heights, a municipality in Prince George’s County. Several hours earlier, a man died in a bedroom fire despite rescue attempts by a pizza deliveryman in Vienna, Va.

Investigators blame unattended lit cigarettes for the blazes.

The fire in Fairmount Heights occurred just after midnight yesterday. Investigators think that a cigarette set a couch on fire, and flames quickly engulfed the small single-story home in the 5400 block of Addison Road.

Three persons in the home were killed. They were identified as Margaret Bobo, 91, her son Morris Jackson, 49, and her great-grandson Ako Henson, 9, who attended Robert R. Gray Elementary School in Capitol Heights.

The boy’s father, whom authorities declined to identify, was not injured in the blaze.

Capt. Chauncey Bowers, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department, said fire and rescue crews arrived at the family’s residence after a police officer on patrol saw the fire.

“The house was pretty much engulfed by then,” Capt. Bowers said.

Fire officials said the family had a smoke alarm, but that the device didn’t have batteries.

Firefighters went door to door in the neighborhood yesterday afternoon handing out fire-safety tips. They planned to do the same today and encouraged county residents to call the department if they wanted free smoke detectors.

“We’re moving toward the cold weather, and a lot of times, heating devices cause fires,” Capt. Bowers said. “People also need to be careful with candles and Christmas decorations.”

There have been 13 deaths in residential fires in the county this year, compared with six last year.

Meanwhile, friends and neighbors of the family gathered in front of the charred shell of the house throughout the day. Several recalled Mr. Jackson’s devotion to his ill mother.

“He always talked about her,” said Gwen Buckner, a family friend and neighbor. “We were the same age. His mother and my mother were both ill, and he would always check on them both.”

Philip Gutrich, 48, of Cheltenham, said he knew Mr. Jackson because they both worked as parking-lot attendants in the District. He said Mr. Jackson had held the job for the past 10 years.

“He was a decent guy,” Mr. Gutrich said. “He came to work, he showed up, and he did his job.”

Prentice A. Christian Jr., principal at Robert R. Gray Elementary, said he was calling the parents of each student in Ako’s fourth-grade class to let them know what had happened.

“We’re hoping the parents can help the children address this, but we’ll also have a crisis plan and counselors available at school,” said Mr. Christian from his office yesterday.

The other fatal fire occurred on Batten Hollow Road in Vienna just before 7 p.m. Saturday.

Glenn Donsanto, 35, died after a fire broke out in an upstairs bedroom, which authorities blamed on cigarette smoking in bed, said Renee Stilwell, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.

A Domino’s Pizza deliveryman attempted to rescue Mr. Donsanto, but was driven out of the house by heavy smoke. The deliveryman, who was not identified by authorities, managed to rescue a cat despite the heavy smoke and flames, Ms. Stilwell said.

The deliveryman was taken to the local hospital for smoke inhalation. A message left at the Domino’s Pizza shop on Maple Avenue was not returned yesterday.

Ms. Stilwell said the incident was the eighth fire-related fatality in the county this year, compared with seven last year.

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