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Search for fire cause goes slowly

July 22, 1997

By BRENDAN KIRBY

Staff Writer

FREDERICK, Md. - Investigators sifted through the ashes in search of clues to the cause of a fire the killed a man on Sunday and displaced 32 people from their homes.

Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Robert B. Thomas Jr. said authorities were still awaiting an autopsy on the man, who remained unidentified Monday evening. Thomas also said it has been slow going to determine what caused the blaze.

"We're looking at several days before we have even a potential cause. We're still eliminating various factors," he said.

Thomas said investigators have spent the past two days examining debris in the living room of Apartment 101, where the fire started.

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"It' been very, very slow, very, very tedious," he said.

The fire broke out in Building A of the Elmwood Terrace Apartments at 90 Waverly Drive at 3:41 a.m. on Sunday, officials said. The fire ripped through the three-story, brick and wood-frame garden apartment building, causing $100,000 damage, officials said.

Two of the 12 apartments sustained heavy damage; the remaining 10 sustained only smoke damage, authorities said.

About 50 firefighters from seven companies brought the fire under control in about an hour, officials said.

The residents who have been displaced are being helped by the American Red Cross, officials said.

In addition to the state fire marshal's office, the Frederick Police Department and Frederick County State's Attorney's Office are investigating the blaze. Thomas said this is standard practice any time there is an unattended death.

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