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Fire causes severe damage to West Side Avenue house

June 19, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

Hagerstown firefighters battled a house fire on West Side Avenue for about 90 minutes Thursday afternoon.

No one was hurt in the blaze.

Battalion Chief Ron Horn said the biggest challenge was the heat. The outside temperature, which was in the 80s, was bad enough; he estimated temperature inside the building at 1,000 degrees.

"It was stubborn, but we were also fighting the heat," he said. "We're trying to keep guys cool. We're trying to work in shifts."

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Horn said extra units were called in to boost manpower. He said he was sending about eight firefighters in for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Outside the building, firefighters poured water on themselves and nearby residents offered cold water and iced tea.

Firefighters arrived at 316-318 West Side Ave. at about 1:30 p.m. to find the back top floor of the three-story building on fire. The building, divided into two halves, contains four apartments. Horn said the fire quickly spread from one side to the other.

Horn said the fire caused heavy damage to the second and third floors and water damage on the first floor. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

The building's residents were caught off-guard by the blaze. Jerry Landers, who was sleeping in the basement of 318 West Side Ave., said he was awakened by his furnace.

"I just woke up and heard the furnace knocking on and off," he said. "I tried to turn on the lights and they wouldn't go on. I figured the power was out and I was wondering what was going on. I made it to the door and saw all this smoke."

Landers' neighbors were watching television next door when a man knocked on their door.

"All he said was, `Get everyone out of the house. There's a fire next door,'" said William Kaufman, who added that he bought the home in November along with his daughter. "So I hollered for my wife and kids

"I wanted to thank him, but I just couldn't find him."

Jamie Kaufman said she and her husband John quickly rounded up their cat and three dogs - and her sister-in-law's dog - and went outside.

"We didn't have time to think about the whole thing," she said. "That's how fast it was. We didn't have time to even get scared, really."

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