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Fire destroys apartment

February 05, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown family was displaced from its home Friday afternoon after a fire set by a 4-year-old boy playing with a lighter destroyed its South Potomac Street apartment.

Dark gray smoke rose from the top-floor windows of an apartment at 423 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown about 3 p.m. Friday. About 20 Hagerstown Fire Department firefighters moved between the apartment building to firetrucks blocking traffic before the blue and red three-story duplex, which is about a block north of Bester Elementary School.

Hagerstown Assistant Fire Marshal Richard Miller said that a preliminary investigation of the fire revealed that it was set by a 4-year-old boy who was playing with a lighter.

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The back bedroom of the two-floor apartment was gutted in the blaze, Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Kyd Dieterich said.

There was extensive heat and smoke damage mostly to the third floor of the apartment, he said. The other half of the duplex was livable, he said.

Cindy Blackstock Kline, director of emergency services for the Washington County chapter of the American Red Cross, said the family that was displaced in the blaze was offered assistance.

She did not know the size of the family. At the fire, a small group of people, including children, were identified as residents of the building, but when the group was approached, they declined to talk about it.

Those in the group watching as firefighters ran water into their building weren't the only people standing on the streets observing the fire.

People lined the sidewalks and door stoops opposite the apartment building. Some smoked cigarettes while others talked on cell phones or looked up with their arms crossed.

Missy Crouse, 25, still wearing her Beverly Healthcare work clothes, came outside when she heard about the fire from a police scanner.

"If there's action, we're going," she said. "I haven't seen a fire in a long time."

Ron Dehart, 63, came out to watch, too.

"That house is lucky it's been standing as long as it has," he said. "I hate to see it. It's really disturbing 'cause they have children."

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