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Fire chief says Shiloh fire started in sauna

July 01, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A fire June 21 at the Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center - the former Hagerstown YMCA - started in the second-floor sauna, but was ruled accidental, Hagerstown Fire Department Chief Gary Hawbaker said Friday.

"The fire originated at or under the sauna," Hawbaker said.

Hawbaker said that the building's owner, Ray Hope, who lives in the second-floor apartment in the 149 N. Potomac St. building, had used the sauna earlier that night.

It appeared that the fire started in the motor of the sauna, but it was not clear whether there were problems with the wiring or a motor malfunction sparked the flames, Hawbaker said.

Firefighters converged on the building June 21 at 2:53 a.m., responding to a reported two-alarm fire at the four-story structure, which was built in 1920.

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The Shiloh Conference and Retreat Center is a Christian retreat center, which normally hosts church groups over the weekends. The facility includes a pool, rock climbing walls and putting greens, said Nancy Holmes, manager of the building. A group was scheduled to come the weekend after the fire, Holmes has said.

Hawbaker said Friday he did not have an estimate on damages to the building.

The former Hagerstown YMCA building was sold to Shiloh Ministries of Hagerstown 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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