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Apartment is heavily damaged in city fire

February 20, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

A fire caused major damage to a first-floor apartment on Broadway in Hagerstown Wednesday, but the building's occupants escaped injury, fire officials said.

The blaze began just before 6:30 p.m. in the living room area and set off smoke detectors, officials said. Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion 1 Chief Ronald Horn said the apartment at 136 Broadway sustained major heat and smoke damage.

No one was in the apartment when the fire broke out, officials said.

Penny Matisi, who lives across the hall, said she heard the detectors and immediately began knocking on doors once she determined the fire was not coming from her apartment.

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"I saw the flames inside the apartment," she said. "I went upstairs and knocked on the doors trying to get people out."

Among the people she warned were Kenny and Stacey Shoemaker.

"We didn't hear the smoke alarm at all," Stacey Shoemaker said. "We had no idea. We just thought some nutty person was beeping our door. We get that all the time."

When they realized there was a fire in the building, Kenny Shoemaker said he tripped the fire alarm and made sure his family got out of the building as quickly as possible.

"I know it doesn't take long for fire to spread," he said.

Horn said firefighters brought the fire under control in about five minutes and prevented the fire from spreading to other parts of the building.

"We were more concerned about making sure everyone was out of the building," he said. "The neighbors did a good job on that, and the alarms."

Other than the apartment in which the fire started, the rest of the four-story building sustained only minor smoke damage, fire officials said.

Robin Ward, who returned home from work to find firefighters outside her building, said she was concerned smoke might damage her belongings.

"I live on the fourth floor and I hope my stuff will be untouched," she said. "I'm getting renter's insurance tomorrow."

Building owner Josef Grewe, who owns other rental properties in Hagerstown, said Wednesday's fire was the second fire at the Broadway location in the two decades he has owned it.

Grewe, 58, of 110 Greenwood Circle in Hagerstown, said the fire "could have been worse ... It's a big building."

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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