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Buildings damaged in blaze

January 17, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

erinc@herald-mail.com

A fire that spread from a vacant building into a home along South Locust Street Sunday evening destroyed one man's home.

The fire at 123 1/2 S. Locust St. in Hagerstown, a vacant rowhouse, was visible on the porch and the first and second floors when firefighters arrived about 6:30 p.m., said Hagerstown Fire Department Captain Justin Mayhue. Smoke was seen streaming from the roof of 123 1/2 S. Locust St. and from a neighboring home.

The fire that spread into 123 S. Locust St. reached the second floor and attic. A third rowhouse, at 121 S. Locust St. - a condemned building - sustained some smoke damage, Mayhue said.

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The cause of the fire was unknown late Sunday, and Hagerstown Fire Marshals were investigating. Mayhue said firefighters know the fire started at 123 1/2 S. Locust St., but are not sure what caused it.

Man escapes



A man living in the only occupied building, 123 S. Locust St., rented the house from his mother, said Mike Weller, life safety educator for Hagerstown Fire Department. With his home destroyed, Weller said the man would be living with his mother and did not need outside assistance from the American Red Cross.

Weller said the man was sleeping when he heard a noise and woke up to find that a portion of his home was on fire. He escaped from his house wearing sweat pants, but no shoes.

Weller said the man was able to stay warm in a fire department vehicle while waiting for his mother to arrive. The two planned to salvage what they could from the home, he said.

Access to Baltimore Street for several blocks around South Locust Street was restricted for nearly four hours to allow firetrucks and other emergency vehicles to have access to the fire. Traffic was restricted from Mulberry Street to Potomac Street along Baltimore Street, and from Mulberry Street to Potomac Street along Antietam Street.

Traffic for several blocks around South Locust Street was detoured until about 10 p.m.

It took firefighters 30 minutes to extinguish the visible fire that engulfed the rear of the houses. Firefighters worked for about two hours to find and extinguish smaller fires in the walls and ceilings, Mayhue said.

"We pull the ceiling down, the floors, too," he said. "We're looking for fire in the insulation. It will smolder in there for hours."

Firefighters climbed ladders to the second floors of the two most damaged houses and began to tear at the roof and walls, looking for hidden pockets of fire, he said.

Mayhue said he was surprised the fire was able to grow so large before it was reported.

"It always surprised me that a fire can get to such a stage before we know about it," he said.

Weller said the fire was reported by several neighbors.

All Hagerstown fire companies responded to the fire, along with the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., hazardous materials and special operations units, the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Rehabilitation unit, Community Rescue Services and others.

Firefighters were still on the scene at 10 p.m.

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