Fire could have cost lives, Fire Marshal says

September 29, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

An intentionally set fire at the Holiday Motel this morning could have cost lives because the smoke detectors weren't working, said Hagerstown Fire Marshal Tom Brown.

"To be honest, we had the potential here to lose a number of people. It was a very serious incident ... We were probably within a few minutes of losing a couple of people in this building," Brown said.

The first Hagerstown firefighters responded to the 12 N. Prospect St. motel within a minute of being dispatched at 7:30 a.m., according to Washington County Fire and Rescue Communications.

Brown said several people asleep on the second and third floors had to be evacuated by firefighters. One man was helped down the fire truck's ladder from the third floor while a firefighter assisted a woman out the West Washington Street entrance.


Ambulance crew members treated both for smoke inhalation, but they refused to be taken to Washington County Hospital, Brown said.

Firefighter Ernest Girardin, who helped the woman get outside, also suffered smoke inhalation because he gave the woman his air mask, said Fire Capt. Randy Myers.

Girardin was treated at the hospital and released, Myers said.

It was against regulations for Girardin to remove his air mask, "but what else can you do," Myers said.

Brown said the tenants told him the smoke detectors did not activate in the motel at the corner of North Prospect and West Washington streets.

The motel's owner was told to check the smoke detectors immediately, Brown said.

Motel owner B.K. Patel said the smoke detectors were in working order, but that tenants sometime deactivate them to prevent them from going off when they are cooking.

"Every time someone moves out we have to check that," Patel said.

Brown said the fire was intentionally set in Apartment 10 on the second floor of the older section of the motel, but wouldn't elaborate. He said the room was unoccupied and had been vacated on Tuesday.

Patel said the mattress in the room had been set on fire.

The fire was contained to the single unit room, which was burnt, Brown said.

It was a minor fire, but it generated "a tremendous volume of smoke" that damaged the second and third floors, he said.

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