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18th-century home burns

March 15, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

BOONSBORO - James Reagan, 69, was reading inside his 255-year-old home Monday morning when he heard a crackling noise.

Then a passerby "beat on the door and said, 'Your house is on fire,'" Reagan said Monday as his Dogstreet Road home smoldered behind him.

Reagan said he is a psychotherapist and has an office inside his two-story house near Boonsboro. He said he was preparing for his day's clients when a stranger alerted him to the danger.

Firefighters were called at 10:10 a.m., according to emergency dispatch records. The flames were reported knocked down about an hour later.

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Officials said about 40 firefighters responded to fight the fire. Crews from fire departments in Boonsboro, Sharpsburg and Fairplay fought the flames. County support vehicles also assisted at the fire.

The cause of the fire appeared to be accidental, said Deputy State Fire Marshal Edward Ernst, who said he agreed with Reagan's theory on the fire's cause.

Reagan said he was using a fireplace and believed that a cinder might have escaped the chimney and fallen onto the roof, which was made of cedar boards. He said the wooden roofing materials, which were at least two years old, might have been too dry to sustain the hot ember.

The home's roof had collapsed, exposing charred remains on the second floor. Ernst said the loss was approximately $75,000.

Reagan said the main portion of the house was built in 1750, and an addition was built in the mid-1800s.

He said when he moved into the house in the mid-1970s with his then-wife, it was a matter of practicality.

"I had five kids, no place to live, and it was cheap," Reagan said. The home had a single electric line, and he had to install a septic system. He said squatters had been living there before he took over the home.

Reagan said he invested much of the last 30 years into refurbishing the house.

Monday morning, Reagan put his two dogs outside and went back inside, settling in the kitchen.

Bryan and Sheri Little, who live about a mile away from Reagan's house, were driving in the neighborhood with their two children when they saw the fire on Reagan's roof.

Bryan Little, 32, said he ran up to the house, and Reagan answered the door. When Little told Reagan the news, it was obvious Reagan didn't know his house was burning.

The two saved a few antique rifles that were on the second floor of the home - the portion that burned. Reagan wasn't able to take other things, including clothing.

Reagan said he has family in the area and would be able to find a place to stay.

With a smile, Reagan said, "I needed a new wardrobe anyway."

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