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City blaze ruled arson

September 03, 2000

City blaze ruled arson



By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer


A Hagerstown fire marshal has ruled that a fire that left eight families homeless Saturday was arson. The blaze was second fire in a week that officials believed to be intentionally set.

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The Saturday fire in apartments at 941 St. Clair St. in Hagerstown started in the basement, which is used for laundry and storage by the tenants, said Fire Marshal Tom Brown.

The fire was set in some "stored materials," including clothing and paper, said Brown.

Brown said he doesn't plan to provide more details about how the items ignited.

"The only ones that know are the person that set it and us (the Hagerstown Fire Department)," he said.

The apartment building has four units and three were occupied at the time of the 3:30 p.m. Saturday fire, he said.

Everyone got out safely and a few firefighters who received burns fighting the fire were treated at the scene, he said.

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The apartment building on St. Clair Street is owned by David Lyles of Hagerstown, who did not return a phone message Sunday.

Although Saturday's fire was the second that officials believe was intentionally set within a week, Brown said he doesn't believe they are related.

Fourteen people were displaced Tuesday after an early morning fire at 424 N. Locust St. A fire marshal announced Friday that the Tuesday fire on Locust Street was set in a third-floor apartment.

No charges had been filed in connection with either fire. The maximum penalty for a first-degree felony arson conviction is up to 30 years in prison. Attempted murder charges could also apply since the buildings were occupied, said Brown.

Both fires caused extensive damage to the buildings, he said.

Brown classified the St. Clair Street apartment building as structurally sound following the Saturday fire. He said the basement had major fire damage, along with the first-floor interior hallway and a first-floor apartment.

Other rooms received smoke and water damage.

Firefighters fighting the Saturday blaze had to do so in temperatures in the mid-80s, which made it difficult, he said.

"The biggest problem was the high humidity and heat. It was unbearable," said Brown.

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