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Chief: Arson not suspected in fire

June 24, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

Foul play is not suspected as the cause of a fire early Wednesday at the Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center, Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said Friday morning.

The official cause of the fire at the building that was the former Hagerstown YMCA will not be released until next week, Hawbaker said.

The fire in the four-story brick building at 149 N. Potomac St. began on the second floor about 2:53 a.m., Hawbaker has said. Firefighters left the scene about 10 a.m., he has said.

The building's owner, Ray Hope, was the only person in the building, and escaped when he smelled smoke, Hope said.

Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center is a Christian retreat center that normally hosts church groups over the weekends. The facility includes a pool, rock walls and putting greens, said Nancy Holmes, manager of the building. A group was scheduled to be at the center this weekend, Holmes said.

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The former Hagerstown YMCA building was sold to Shiloh Ministries of Hagers- town for $500,000, The Herald-Mail reported in January 2002.

The building, erected in 1920, was for sale because the YMCA in December 2001 moved out of the downtown location and into the Richard A. Henson Family YMCA on Eastern Boulevard, which was an $8.4 million building.

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