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Fire destroys two homes in Pen Mar

Two other houses damaged

Two other houses damaged

March 31, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

PEN MAR - A two-alarm fire in this morning destroyed two houses, damaged two others and spread to about an acre of land on Pen Mar Road, Leitersburg Volunteer Fire Co. Inc. Chief Kirk Mongan said.

Mongan said the 1:10 a.m. fire, which appeared to have started from a burn barrel, spread to a vacant house and then engulfed another house that was about 10 feet away by the time firefighters arrived.

A spokeswoman at the Hagerstown office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal said the cause of the fire has not been released.

When Mongan's department arrived at the scene, the family living in the second house had already escaped, but both houses were "completely involved."

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"It was starting to spread to the third house," he said.

Mongan said he sent the fire into a second alarm, calling between 80 and 100 firefighters who arrived from stations in Pennsylvania and Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland.

"To be honest, I can't name how many companies," Mongan said.

He said firefighters not only had to fight the fires at the three houses and try to prevent it from spreading to a fourth house, they also had to fight a brush fire, which spread to about an acre of land.

A Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., firefighter told the family in the third house to get out before the fire spread to it, he said.

The houses were all early 20th-century homes, he said. The third house eventually caught fire, sustaining "considerable" damage, he said.

Mongan said it took "at least an hour, an hour and a half to get the fire knocked down."

On top of fighting the fires, Mongan said a power line that was "apparently charged" fell across Pen Mar Road, making it impassable.

The fires were about a mile or two away from a water supply, which also compounded the fight against the blaze.

"We kept running out of water," he said.

Mongan said he is sure dry weather conditions contributed to the fire's spread.

"Anybody who burns today is absolutely crazy," he said. "I would certainly advise against it."

Firefighters will continue to check on the houses today.

"The foundations of both houses are still smoldering," he said.

Cindy Blackstock, director of emergency services for the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Red Cross was called to assist the two families of three members each that were displaced. She said both families have places to stay.

The fourth house is still livable, Mongan said.

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