Downtown fire hits Clear Spring

January 10, 2000

Clear Spring fireBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

CLEAR SPRING - A three-alarm fire struck the historic heart of downtown Clear Spring Sunday morning, spreading to five attached properties on Cumberland Street and causing an estimated $250,000 worth of damage.

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About 70 firefighters from 14 fire companies in three Tri-State counties came to battle the blaze, bringing it under control in an hour and 45 minutes, according to the State Fire Marshal's Office.

No serious injuries were reported, but two firefighters were treated on the scene for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion. A third was treated for a back injury. Two large dogs were carried dead from one of the homes.


The blaze ignited local fears that a downtown fire could cause widespread damage because several old structures share walls. The fire began in 120 Cumberland St. and seethed into 118, 122, 124 and 126 Cumberland, according to the fire marshal's office.

"We were afraid of this," said Marylou Mundey, who co-owns the hardware store at 136 Cumberland St. She watched the aftermath from her home across the road. "I'm glad there was no wind blowing," she said.

Linda Lee, manager of C&C's Pub at 122 Cumberland St., discovered the fire when she arrived there and smelled something burning, according to the fire marshal. She called the fire department shortly after 10 a.m.

The five properties affected are at the core of downtown, according to David Wiles, president of the Clear Spring Historical Society. They date back to the 1820s, he said. The residence at 120 Cumberland St. had belonged to a prominent preservationist, he said.

"The house had special meaning to those of us in the area," he said. "It's very sad to see this happen. For historic buildings, Clear Spring had quite a blow today."

Vice Mayor Julianna Albowicz was reading inside 126 Cumberland St. when she heard screaming outside. Her husband was downstairs preparing to open their liquor store, Hoff Inc.

She went to the porch to see what was wrong and a neighbor told her about the fire. "I think the only damage we had was in the attic," she said. Albowicz later spoke to the mayor and declared a town emergency.

Witnesses said plumes of fire could be seen along the rear alley behind the burning buildings. The Rev. Andy Carr said he saw smoke at 10:20 a.m. from inside St. Peter's Lutheran Church on Martin Street.

Smoke still billowed from the rear roof of 120 Cumberland St. at 12:30 p.m. The green Victorian porch on the front facade was blackened around the doorway and dark smears extended up from the front windows.

Families gathered in the muddy rear yards where spent water pooled from the hoses. Firefighters sawed a wall and threw singed clothing from an upstairs window. Several tended to a red-faced fireman prostrate on the ground.

Cumberland Street was closed for about eight hours, according to the town's fire department. Fire police redirected traffic away from the scene for several blocks as several trucks, ambulances and other vehicles filled the road.

Steady crowds of curious and concerned bystanders walked past and stared up as the yellow suits of firefighters moved in, on and around the buildings.

Clear Spring Volunteer Fire Department Chief Curtis L. Cline said eight people were displaced by the fire, including a single man and two families. An American Red Cross representative came to the scene to help provide shelter and emergency services.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the exact origin and cause of the fire.

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