Christmastime fires leave one dead, seven injured

Memorial Fire Company fire fighters of Slaughter Beach check on hot spots after 3 homes were destroyed on Christmas night. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

MILFORD and LINCOLN — Two fires just after Christmas left one dead, seven injured and at least three homes destroyed in the area last week.

The first sent alarms up shortly after 7 p.m. on Christmas night just steps away from the coastline in Slaughter Beach in the 300 block of Bay Drive.

First responders from Memorial Fire Company based out of Slaughter Beach, Ellendale Fire Company, Carlisle Fire Company and Sussex County EMS were among the initial crews to fight the blast.

Others joined in as the night continued.

According to Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio, two houses were destroyed. Three other homes were damaged. No injuries were reported.

“Heavy fire damage is expected to exceed $500,000,” Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio said. “This investigation continues.”

Putting out the fire quickly was made difficult by active power lines; firefighers had to wait until the power was cut to the two main homes in the fire before hosing them down, according to fire Chief Terry Jester of Memorial Fire Company in Slaughter Beach.

How the fire began remains unclear, although several on the scene reported a propane tank had exploded. High winds helped the fire travel from home to home.

Firefighters on the scene say several garage or shed structures were also damaged or destroyed from the fire.

The 9200 block of E. Mayhew Drive in Lincoln was the location of the next fire, one that would end up claiming a toddler’s life and injuring several others.

At 9:49 a.m. Dec. 28, local fire companies and EMS were alerted of the residential fire with reports of multiple subjects trapped inside.

According to the Ellendale Fire Company, Fire Chief Jester of Memorial Fire Company in Slaughter Beach and Assistant Chief Rob Foster of Ellendale Fire Company reported “heavy fire showing from numerous windows on both floors of the home.” The fire was also visible from the basement.

Ellendale Fire Company further reported that a subject was trapped in the second floor with another trapped in the basement.

Although firefighters searched the second floor of the home for one of the trapped victims, it was later discovered that they escaped before first responders arrived.

More crews arrived and began working to reach the basement of the structure, but leadership at the fire called for evacuation due to deteriorating conditions within the building as the fire was still on all three floors.

They continued to work to put the fire out from outside of the building “until conditions approved,” according to the Ellendale Fire Company. Just under two hours after their initial call for help, the fire was determined to be under control. Crews stayed for several hours to continue cleaning up hot spots.

According to Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael G. Chionchio, the fire caused about $250,000 in damage. Seven people were injured and are currently listed in stable condition. One died as a result of the fire.

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at

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