Officials believe cigarette contributed to fatal New Market fire

A New Market woman died last week after fire and rescue workers responded to a fire at her apartment.

Shenandoah County Fire Marshal David Ferguson said a caller reported a fire at one of eight apartments at 9091 North Congress St. just after 5 p.m. May 25.

Ferguson said Sherry Ann Fincham, a 65-year-old woman living alone in the ground floor apartment, was removed from the building while the fire was being extinguished. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

He said responders noted minimal fire damage to the apartment but extensive damage from fire smoke. He said the damage was contained to the apartment and other tenants evacuated the building but were able to return to their apartments.

“At the time, the investigation has pointed to the female being on oxygen at the time of the fire,” he said. “All points lead to the cigarette being a contributing factor, along with the oxygen accelerating the fire.”

Ferguson said that companies responding to the fire included New Market, Mount Jackson, Edinburg and Timberville fire departments as well as the Shenandoah County Department of Fire and Rescue. He said one fire and rescue employee was hospitalized after inhaling smoke while responding to the incident, but has since been released.

He said investigation into the incident is ongoing, and he is awaiting autopsy information from the medical examiner’s office to determine if the fire started after the woman died of natural causes.

“I’ve had several situations where the natural causes end up causing the fire conditions to occur,” he said.

Ferguson said this is the second fatal fire to occur this year with improper cigarette disposal as a contributing factor. He encouraged people to be cautious with cigarette use, be aware of their surroundings and check their smoke alarms.

“We can’t stress enough how important it is to discard cigarettes and properly utilize cigarettes,” he said.

Ferguson said the fire department has made contact with Fincham’s close friends and church, but said the department hasn’t yet learned of any living relatives to notify.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com