An elderly Accokeek couple was killed in an early morning fire yesterday that apparently began when a gas kitchen stove in the couple's rural mobile home was used to heat the trailer's chilly interior.
Alonza Bean, 73, and his wife of 52 years, Pauline Elizabeth, 72, were found dead on their bedroom floor by firemen shortly after their arrived at the trailer located on a rural Prince George's County road at about 5 a.m., according to a county fire investigator.
The stove was found with its oven door partially open amidst the rubble left by the fire, the investigator said. He said the grease in a frying pan left inside the stove may have ignited, triggering the blaze.
According to witnesses of the fire, the Bean's tiny trailer was consumed in flames even before fire trucks arrived on the scene.
James L. Bean, eldest son of the dead man, said his father, who had worked as a hired hand on a Southern Maryland tobacco farm for 40 years before he retired, was normally an early riser, but he rarely used the stove for heat or cooking Bean said his parents usually heated the trailer with small kerosene lamps or a portable electric heater. None of the other heater were believed to be involved in the blaze, the investigator said.
Bean said his parents had moved into the trailer seven years ago to live near one of their daughters. His father spent his time chopping wood for neighbors or playing cards with his grandchildren, while his wife knitted clothing for the youngsters in the family. She worked as a domestic before retirement.
Herbert Gladen, a neighbor of the Beans who lives nearby, said he noticed the blaze when he heard "bursting sounds" at about 4:45 a.m. He said he and his brother awakened the Bean's daughter, Margaret Medley, who lived next to the trailer.
Mrs. Medley's 16-year-old son Tyrone said he and his mother broke one of the trailer's windows in an attempt to get at his grandparents, but the flames prevented them from entering.
Only the metal frame of the trailer was distinguishable in the rubble yesterday. The couple's pet chihuahua also perished in the blaze.