Beaver BrookIMG_0014

NIAD NOTE: It is ironic that the fire in the Kirk case was arson, and this an accident.


April 2, 2000

Section: Local
Page: 1, 2B

Apartment fire displaces 36
Blaze blamed on electrical wiring malfunction

By Dennis Thompson Jr. Staff reporter
NEW CASTLE - A fire Saturday in a New Castle-area apartment complex left 20 families homeless and caused an estimated $200,000 in damage, fire officials said.

Firefighters worked well past sundown containing the blaze, which started about 3:30 p.m. at
No. 20 Beaver Brook Apartments. The fire destroyed two apartments and left the rest damaged by water and smoke, said Jeff Tillinghast, chief of the Wilmington Manor Fire Company.

"Most of the bulk of the fire was in the attic area," Tillinghast said. One resident was treated on the scene for minor smoke inhalation.

An electrical malfunction in the fixed wiring in a third-floor apartment caused the fire, Assistant State Fire
Marshal Willard F. Preston III said.

The American Red Cross put at least eight families in motels until Monday, spokeswoman Jeannine Herrmann said. The other families had places to stay. At least 36 people were displaced by the fire, Herrmann said.

Leslie Sturdavant, 29, said her father was getting ready for work about 2:45 p.m. when the building's fire alarm went off.

They smelled smoke, but they thought someone's dinner was burning because the smoke had a fishy smell to it, she said.

Maintenance man Joe Everett came to the building after receiving complaints. He started a door-to-door search for the source of the smoke.

"I opened up apartment V and a wall of smoke hit me," Everett said. "So I just shut the door back and told everyone to get out."

No one was home at the apartment where the fire apparently started, Everett said.

Sturdavant said the fire didn't strike her as serious until after she and her neighbors had left the building.

"When smoke started pouring out the windows, that's when it started looking bad," she said.

Julius Calhoun, 60, was on his way home from shopping when he noticed a smoke plume looming in the sky.

"I saw smoke all the way down Du Pont Highway," Calhoun said. "And as I got closer to home, it got closer to home."

When Calhoun got to Beaver Brook, he found the smoke was coming from his apartment building. "It's bad, you come in and see your own building burning," he said.

Wilmington Manor received assistance from Delaware City, Christiana, Good Will of New Castle, Odessa, Claymont, Belvedere, Middletown, Five Points and Holloway Terrace fire companies.

Saturday's blaze was the second major fire at Beaver Brook Apartments over the past few years. In December 1996, three people died during a fire started when a neighbor's boyfriend poured rum onto a hot stove burner.

The man, Mark A. Kirk, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to mandatory life in prison.

Reach Dennis Thompson at 324-2553 or