June 1, 2023


SALISBURY — Firefighters said training paid off when their team was able to work together and bring a man and a dog out of a burning Cherry Way home.

“I’m just very proud of this department; I’m very proud of the guys that were involved,” said Salisbury Lt. David Bowling on Monday. “It was a complete success from start to finish.”

Assistant Chief Jim Gladwell said it took about three to four minutes for firefighters to find the victim — identified as 76-year-old Gordon Hitchcock — and get him out of the home. From the time of the firefighters’ arrival to the time Hitchcock was at Peninsula Regional Medical Center was only about 11 minutes, he said.

“I’m as proud as I can be,” Gladwell said.

After being transported to PRMC as a result of the 7:24 p.m. Sunday fire, Hitchcock was flown to the Johns Hopkins Bayview Burn Center in critical condition, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. A spokeswoman at the Bayview Burn Center said Monday afternoon Hitchcock remained in critical condition.

Bowling located the victim inside, but wasn’t able to get him out of the building by himself. Zackary Keenan and Andrew Merrill got to the man and were able to pull him out of the home, and Bowling could go back to helping extinguish the fire.

Buddy, a 14-year-old mixed-breed dog, was also rescued from the home after a second search, Gladwell said. The fire hadn’t gotten to the bathroom he was in, he said.

Buddy was lethargic and suffered from smoke inhalation, but after firefighters put him on oxygen for about 10 or 15 minutes, he was doing well, Gladwell said.

Keenan’s mindset was, “I’m not coming out unless I got the person,” he said. Because firefighters aren’t able to see in the burning home, it comes down to instinct and training, he said.

Before he went into the home, neighbors were saying there was someone inside. Keenan was separated from his partner after getting into the home, but he said Merrill was able to find him using a thermal imaging camera.

The home, at 322 Cherry Way, is owned by 48-year-old Kevin Brown, who was at a neighbor’s house at the time and upon finding out about the fire, ran to the home but wasn’t able to get inside because of the fire, the Fire Marshal’s Office said.

Investigators determined the fire was caused by the electrical failure of a cord of an oil-filled radiant heater, said Senior Deputy State Fire Marshal Oliver Alkire.

He said the damage is estimated at $20,000, and it’s still under investigation whether smoke alarms in the home were working.

It couldn’t have gone any better, Gladwell and Bowling both said.

“This is why we train,” Bowling said.

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