Blaze might have been set

July 01, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

A fire that severely damaged a vacant building on a narrow gravel road outside Smithsburg Monday afternoon may have been set intentionally, Maryland Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Allen Gosnell said.

Firefighters were called to Hippan Hill Road, which is off Foxville Road (Md. 77), at about 4:30 p.m.

Steven Lewis, the deputy chief of the Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Co., said some from Smithsburg Emergency Medical Services driving on Md. 64 noticed smoke in the air.

Lewis said it took 15 to 20 minutes to knock down the fire, which was on the second floor. A Mount Aetna firefighter who got debris in an eye was treated at the scene.


Isaiah, a K-9 working for the Fire Marshal's officer, detected evidence of an accelerant as authorities were investigating the fire, Gosnell said.

Lewis described the building as a storage facility once used by Bromley Orchards. Jo Proctor, a nearby resident, said it previously was a house where orchard workers used to live.

Lewis and Proctor said the building has been vacant for many years.

Proctor said youths sometimes have parties on the property. Other times, hunters walk through. She said the trespassers worry her.

Seven fire companies - including some from Frederick County, Md., and Franklin County, Pa. - worked together to put out the fire. A Smithsburg tanker truck parked next to the building supplied water.

Lewis said it was a challenge to get water to the scene.

Firefighters used a hydrant on Foxville Road, near Md. 64, to fill tanker trucks, which dumped water in a square holding pen at the foot of Hippan Hill Road. Firefighters monitoring the pen said it held about 2,000 gallons.

Lewis said about 2,400 feet of hose ran from the pen up Hippan Hill Road, which rises slightly. Firefighters used two Smithsburg pumper trucks parked next to the building to draw water and douse the fire.

Hot weather and high humidity meant that firefighters had to be rotated in and out of service after a short time, Lewis said.

The Fire Marshal's office estimated damage at $1,000.

Much of the building was damaged. A wire bed frame could be seen through a gap in the second-story wall that was consumed by fire.

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