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Women, children unhurt in blaze

August 24, 2004|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

Three women and each of their children escaped injury Monday when an electrical malfunction sparked a basement fire at an East Washington Street apartment.

Hagerstown Fire Department Capt. Justin Mayhue said the fire started just after 3:30 p.m. as a man worked to replace a circuit breaker on an electrical panel at 207 E. Washington St.

"When he was pulling it out, the sparks just flew," Mayhue said.

Mayhue said firefighters at the scene initially used dry chemical extinguishers to fight the small fire, which was contained to the basement. Mayhue said fire officials needed a Hagerstown Light Department representative to assure them the electricity was shut off at the site before water could be used inside the building.

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Mayhue said the basement ceiling received the brunt of the fire and smoke damage.

No injuries were reported, he said.

The fire forced the closure of the 200 block of East Washington Street and nearby roads for more than an hour. As a result, traffic backed up on several roads in the area, including East Franklin Street, as rush hour approached.

People crowded the sidewalks of the 200 and 300 blocks of East Washington Streets as firefighters removed items from the building and inspected the area.

Shannon Weatherholtz, who lives in the building with her child, said she, two of her adult friends and three children younger than 3 years old were inside the building when the fire broke out. Weatherholtz said they ran outside when smoke started coming into the first floor of the building.

"I heard these loud noises like someone was getting electrocuted," she said.

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