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Samples from fire analyzed

May 21, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

Hours after Sunday morning's two-alarm fire on Randolph Avenue, Hagerstown fire investigators collected samples to be analyzed, including evidence that an accelerant may have been used to start the blaze.

"The cause is suspicious," said Hagerstown Fire Marshal Wayne Smith. "We had a dog in there Sunday afternoon and evidence of an accelerant was found."

That ties in with initial witness reports that the 12:23 a.m. fire was ignited by "some type of explosion" that heavily damaged the apartment building at 38-40 Randolph Ave. and caused some damage next door at 42 Randolph Ave.

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"I was asleep on the couch in my front room when I heard a big, loud explosion," said Tammy Lawrence, who lives across the street at 39 Randolph Ave. "It was deafening."

Lawrence said she ran upstairs to get her husband and when she looked out the front window, she saw fire on the second floor across the street. Glass blown out by the explosion was in the street.

"I remember thinking, 'thank God, the people with the two little children who lived on the second floor were away when the fire happened,'" Lawrence said.

A young woman who lived on the first floor got out unharmed, Lawrence said. "I don't know her name but she came back a few hours after the fire and found her cat ... it was all right."

That young woman just moved in three weeks ago, Lawrence said. "I asked her where she was going to stay and she said she had a place to go."

Randolph Avenue is off North Potomac Street where Trinity Lutheran Church and its parking lot occupy a large portion of the south side of the first block.

"I've lived in my house for seven years and we haven't had any trouble before," Lawrence said.

Lawrence said an older woman who had lived in one of the downstairs apartments was in a rehabilitation hospital at the time of the fire.

Hagerstown Fire Chief Gary Hawbaker said he learned Sunday that woman was due to move back into her apartment soon but wasn't there Sunday.

The other upstairs apartment was vacant, fire officials said.

The owner of 38-40 Randolph Ave. is Barbara Joy, who said Monday she will be meeting with her insurance agent to determine monetary loss. Her plans for the building are unclear, she said.

Ownership of 42 Randolph Ave. was still not clear Monday but it was known that it was vacant.

"The only damage there was to the outside wall," Hawbaker said. "It was a very good effort by our firefighters to stop the fire."

Hagerstown firefighters were assisted by the ladder truck from Long Meadow Fire Co.

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