- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 15, 2004

A Montgomery County woman who would have celebrated her 73rd birthday yesterday and her ailing husband died in an early morning house fire in Colesville yesterday.

Mamie Boyd, a retired Holy Cross Hospital nurse, and her husband, Willie, 72, a retired federal government engineer, had lived in their three-bedroom house on Smith Village Court for about 35 years, neighbors said.

County fire officials said the blaze started at about 6:30 a.m. in the couple’s basement.

Firefighters rescued a woman from an upstairs bedroom, but she later died at the scene, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the county fire and rescue services. Firefighters found the body of a man in the basement area of the home sometime before noon.

Mr. Piringer said the cause of the fire appears to be accidental.

The Boyds are the county’s first fire fatalities this year. Mr. Piringer said five persons were killed in fires last year.

Neighbors said the Boyds were instrumental in establishing a familylike atmosphere in the neighborhood.

“They just laughed all the time,” said Anthony Coles, 46, a next-door neighbor.

His sister, Lisa, 36, said she discovered that the Boyds’ house was on fire. Mr. Boyd, who became partially handicapped after suffering a brain aneurysm, smoked and the fire appeared to have begun near his hospital bed, she said.

“I heard some crackling noise,” Miss Coles said. “I came out and saw the fire. I went and banged on the door. Flames burst through the roof.”

Miss Coles said she saw what she thought was Mrs. Boyd’s hand at a second-floor window. Unable to help, Miss Coles ran back home and called 911.

About 75 fighters responded to the house, which is located in a cul-de-sac.

“The house was all in flames. It took 20 to 30 minutes to knock down the bulk of the flames,” Mr. Piringer said.

Firefighters “brought the woman out the window,” Mr. Piringer said. It was five hours later before rescue workers found the man’s body.

Mr. Coles said the Boyds helped their neighbors whenever they saw a need. Mrs. Boyd had tended to a neighbor who had suffered a stroke.

The neighbors also helped the Boyds whenever the couple needed help. Neighbors shoveled snow off their driveway, carried garbage to the curb and fixed pinhole leaks in copper pipes, but the Boyds always insisted on paying for the chores.

“You had no choice. She just reached over and shoved the money in your pocket,” Mr. Coles said.

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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