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Captain says fires, alarms at building 'a real problem'

September 28, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

A five-story apartment building at 21 W. Antietam St. has become a regular stop for Hagerstown firefighters, Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Kyd Dieterich said Tuesday.

Firefighters have been called to two fires there in the past five weeks and numerous false alarms, Dieterich said.

On Tuesday evening, a fire started in a second-floor apartment, and a fourth-floor apartment was the scene of a fire Sept. 4, he said.

"It's become a real problem," Dieterich said.

Tuesday's fire started in a child's bedroom around 7 p.m. A Hagerstown fire marshal was investigating to determine the cause.

When firefighters arrived, no one was inside the apartment, Dieterich said. Firefighters put out the fire within two minutes.

Other residents in the building got out safely, he said.

Firefighters hauled out a burned mattress and box springs from the apartment. They added the items to a mound of trash at the rear of the building.

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Burned wood and other household items from a previous fire were on the pile along with other trash.

The contents of the apartments in both fires were damaged, but the building is structurally sound, Dieterich said.

Building owner Ed Snook of Clear Spring said he had not been notified about the fire Tuesday evening.

He is in the process of repairing units in the building, and the trash mound is fire debris, he said.

"We've already taken a couple of loads away," Snook said. Some of the residents were being paid to clean up the mess, he said.

The owner said he was aware only of the Sept. 4 fire and two false alarms at the building.

Dieterich said the Hagerstown Fire Department would notify the city code inspector's office about the trash mound behind the building.

Hagerstown City Police officer Wayne Hose said he had noticed the refuse pile before and reported it to the city.

Police went to the scene Tuesday after receiving a report of residents fighting over who started the fire, he said.

No arrests were made Tuesday evening.

"They were just expressing their frustration," said Dieterich.

Crystal Welch has lived on the fourth floor of the building with her daughter since January and has seen city inspectors come and go, she said.

She said she is disgusted with the condition of the building and the frequency of the fires and alarms.

Her carpet and sofa were damaged from water from a previous fire, she said.

"I stopped paying my rent so I could save up enough money to move out," she said.

She was at home when Tuesday's fire started but didn't leave the building at first, she said.

"I thought it was a false alarm again until I heard the neighbor yelling, 'Get out, the building's on fire,'" said Welch.

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