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Fire damages building in downtown Boonsboro

December 28, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

BOONSBORO

erinc@herald-mail.com

A fire in downtown Boonsboro damaged at least one historic building and filled two Main Street businesses with light smoke Tuesday afternoon.

Ted Chapman, who owns Ted's Place at 5 N. Main St., said the lights in his business went out just before 4 p.m. Then, he smelled smoke.

Fire spread vertically through the walls of the building, at the corner of North Main and Potomac streets, said John Latimer, director of the Washington County Division of Fire and Emergency Services. When members of the Boonsboro Volunteer Fire Co. arrived, there was smoke visible, and fire on the first and third floors.

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There were no injuries, he said. The fire caused $1,500 in structural damage and $3,500 was lost in contents, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal's office. The fire was caused by an electrical short in the in the rear section of Chapman's business, the fire marshal's office said.

The fire was able to spread vertically through the walls because the building, which is about 100 years old, was constructed using a "balloon frame," he said. In more modern homes, each floor is framed separately. Balloon framing does not separate each floor, and instead the vertical pieces span the full height of the building.

Latimer said firefighters inspected many other buildings along North Main Street because they share a common attic.

"If there was fire in the attic, the whole thing could have spread (down the street)," he said.

The building at 5 N. Main St., a three-story stone structure, was vacant except for Chapman's business, according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal. The second and third floors, which hold some residential units, were being remodeled. Several workers were in the building when the fire broke out, Latimer said.

State tax records show that 1 N. Main St., 3 N. Main St. and 5 N. Main St., all owned by Mark Webb of Hagerstown, are in the same building.

Chapman, along with owners of Ol' Town Sweets at 7 N. Main St., carried items and furniture from their businesses onto the sidewalk to prevent further damage.

Chapman said that after he called police, he started carrying computers outside. Neighbors and firefighters helped him clear out his store.

There was some water damage to his store, which is now without power, and the fire destroyed parts of the rear of his business and the ceiling, he said.

Tuesday evening he made plans to move the computers, furniture and software stacked along the road to a storage facility for the night. He said his business will not be open today, but he hopes it will soon.

"We will reopen," Chapman said. "I just don't know if it will be here, but it will be in Boonsboro."

His business had been at that address since August 2004.

There were no smoke alarms or fire sprinklers in the building, the fire marshal said. Seventy-five firefighters from across the Tri-State region and Frederick County, Md., controlled the fire in 20 minutes but stayed on the scene for hours making sure the fire did not spread down Main Street.

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