Some items saved from fire

July 20, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

Many people have horror stories from moving, but it is unlikely that most of them can top Washington County resident Karen Fiorita Bowman's experience.

One week ago yesterday, Bowman's hope of returning to her new apartment for what was to be a relaxing first night there was dashed when a fire gutted much of the first floor and destroyed many of her possessions.

On July 12, following a weekend of moving boxes into 9602 Grafton Lane, Bowman returned to find her new apartment on fire. Bowman, who previously lived at an apartment on Jefferson Boulevard, said she left the apartment for less than 30 minutes when she received a phone call that black smoke was billowing out of the building.


"I just went to pick up my cats at a friend's house," Bowman said. "I came as fast as I could, but there was nothing you could do. You couldn't even walk onto the porch."

Bowman spent much of her afternoon Monday sifting through the wreckage to find items that were not destroyed last week.

"It's so difficult to even walk through the door," she said.

The fire was reported shortly before 7 p.m., said Williamsport Volunteer Fire Department Chief Will Ball. About 60 firefighters fought the blaze that gutted the first floor and caused severe heat and smoke damage to the second floor.

The cause was still under investigation Monday by the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

Bowman, a Hancock native, said two of the main priorities on her "to-do list" for July 13 were to set up her renter's insurance policy and check all the smoke detectors in the two-floor apartment.

"I was so busy at work Monday that I just didn't have time to set up my renter's insurance," said Bowman, who works for First Vehicle Service, based in Rockville, Md.

Among the items Bowman lost in the fire were hard-to-replace items she spent years collecting, including her 30 Longaberger baskets, and pieces of antique silver and furniture. She said she a kitchen table with matching chairs that her great-uncle made more than 70 years ago also were damaged beyond repair.

"When a family member makes something, it's just irreplaceable," she said. "I can get all that other stuff again. It'll just take time."

Bowman said she was relieved that some items, including most of her clothes, some camping and skiing equipment, decorations and some kitchen items, were saved. Among the kitchen items was a green mixing bowl that belonged to her grandmother that Bowman said she thought was destroyed.

Bowman and her mother, Mary Jane Fiorita, said they are trying to focus on some positives and get the remaining items out of the apartment by the weekend so Bowman can try to put the incident behind her.

"It could have been much worse," Fiorita said. "She could have come back and went to bed before it happened."

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