Fire destroys 1892 house

December 02, 2004|by JULIE E. GREENE and SCOTT BUTKI

WASHINGTON COUNTY - High winds may have contributed to an accidental fire that destroyed a 112-year-old house east of Hagerstown on Wednesday morning, said Chief Kirk Mongan with the Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co.

The fire started on an interior rear porch of the two-story wood-frame house at 20607 Old Forge Road. The cause of the fire was preliminarily listed as discarded ashes igniting nearby combustibles, according to a Maryland State Fire Marshal's news release.

The fire marshal could not be reached Wednesday night, but Mongan said fire officials think the fire might have been started by the wind picking up ashes from an ash can or ash bucket.


"Had it not been for the wind, the house may have been saved, (the fire) at least contained to one room, if the fire would have started at all," Mongan said.

Firefighters couldn't get water on the house fast enough to counteract the wind, which fanned the fire that was ripping through the house, Mongan said.

Firefighters had to draw water from Antietam Creek, approximately 1,000 feet away, Mongan said.

Mongan estimated that firefighters had to contend with sustained winds of 30 mph to 40 mph and gusts up to 60 mph.

Winds in the Hagerstown area reached 67 mph on Wednesday morning, according to local weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

The winds were blowing in a direction that kept the fire from reaching an adjacent garage or a swimming pool and deck in the back, Mongan said.

Mark Trovinger said he heard a fire alarm shortly after his cousin, Janet Folmer, left the house for work Wednesday morning.

While the residents were not home when the fire was discovered, Trovinger said two dogs, a cat and a parakeet were inside.

Mongan did not know whether the pets survived.

Folmer and her husband, Robin, were staying with a relative on Wednesday night, Trovinger said.

The Folmers could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Trovinger said his great-grandfather built the house in the early 1890s and the house has always been in the family.

According to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records online, the primary structure was built in 1892.

The fire marshal's office estimated damage to the structure at $95,000 and to the contents at $30,000.

The fire was reported at 9:39 a.m. and reported out at 11:34 a.m., according to Washington County 911 dispatch.

An hour after the fire was reported, family members were watching firefighters work to extinguish it.

A neighbor discovered the fire, according to the fire marshal's office.

Thirty-two firefighters from Leitersburg, Longmeadow, Maugansville and Smithsburg responded as well as Community Rescue Service, according to the fire marshal's office.

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