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Saturday fire at warehouse complex still under investigation

July 15, 2002|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

The cause of Saturday night's two-alarm fire that caused $100,000 in damages to an old warehouse complex on Security Road in Hagerstown is still under investigation, a spokesman for the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office said.

Firefighters were drawn to the 1123 Security Road site several times Sunday to douse a number of rekindles of the fire, which destroyed the warehouse complex that once housed part of the Hagerstown Paint and Glass Co.

The building is currently owned by the L.G. Mathias family trust, said Steve Palkovitz, Hagerstown Paint and Glass chairman.

"We never did own the warehouse on Security Road, we leased it," Palkovitz said Sunday.

At the time the warehouse housed part of Hagerstown Paint and Glass operations, the building was owned by Mathias, founder of the 78-year-old company. The family trust took ownership after Mathias' death.

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Hagerstown Paint and Glass consolidated its Hagerstown operations to 18136 Oak Ridge Drive in 1986. The firm currently employs 48 people there. Another four work out of Martinsburg, W.Va., and eight in Cumberland, Md., Palkovitz said.

After Hagerstown Paint and Glass moved out of the building, it was subleased to a roofing contractor, Palkovitz said.

At the time of the fire Saturday, Palkovitz said he thought there was little of value in the building. The fire marshal's report listed loss of contents as having no value.

More than 75 area firefighters were needed to fight the blaze. When firefighters arrived, flames and heavy smoke were coming from the building's roof.

State fire investigators Jason Mowbray and Ryan Chapman were called to the scene to investigate the cause and whether the blaze might be connected to a fire earlier this week at a vacant house on nearby Needy's Lane, said Lt. Jason Eckstine of the Long Meadow Volunteer Fire Co.

"We're putting together a serious investigation of both this fire and one a few days ago on Needy's Lane," said Allen Gosnell, deputy chief Maryland fire marshal. "We are very concerned about these fires."

A neighbor said the buildings on Security Road were often the target of vandals, and that kids go in and out of them from time to time.

Smoke billowed from the roofs of all the buildings Saturday night and the heat from the fire could be felt 75 feet away.

Drivers anxious to see the smoldering remains of the fire paraded through the intersection of Security Road and Antietam Drive Sunday afternoon hoping to get a look.

Any witnesses who were in the area prior to the arrival of the first firefighters at 8:30 p.m. Saturday are asked to call 1-877-890-0199. All calls are confidential and a reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest, Gosnell said.

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