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Women's Club catches fire

October 23, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - An afternoon fire that forced 18 tenants of a historic South Prospect Street building to find new accommodations was under investigation Sunday night, a Women's Club official said.

According to Women's Club manager Linda Ogilvie, damage from the fire was "confined to basically the third floor," though the 31 S. Prospect St. structure also sustained water damage.

Hagerstown Fire Department Battalion Chief Randy Myers estimated the fire caused about $150,000 in damage. Living units on the third floor sustained the heaviest damage, he said.

As smoke rose from the building's roof, a group of women clustered around a car in the parking lot outside the Women's Club.

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"We've got so many people living here, and this is like our only home. It's very distressing," Shelley Neuhalfen said.

A tenant for about three years, Neuhalfen said she had clothes in the building's top-floor attic, but she said she was most worried about artwork in her second-floor apartment.

"What little we have is up there," she said.

Neuhalfen walked around with her hand covering her mouth as firefighters climbed ladders to the third floor. One woman sat on a curb and cried.

State tax records indicate the building is owned by Women's Club Inc., and the primary part of the structure was built in 1838.

According to Ogilvie, tenants who could not find anywhere else to go were helped by the Washington County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

The fire was reported at about 2:40 p.m., and the last emergency services unit left the scene at 8:02 p.m., a Washington County Emergency Services dispatcher said. According to Myers, about 60 firefighters from Hagerstown, Funkstown, Halfway and Maugansville responded.

The Holiday Towne Bazaar scheduled for Friday has been postponed, Ogilvie said.

As several tenants still in sleeping clothes watched over the scene, Ruth French talked about her memories of the building, where she lived in 1987. Tenants in some of the tiny women-only units shared a kitchen and bathroom, she said.

French said she could smell the smoke of the fire from her home on High Street.

"It's just memories because I come by here all the time and look at it. Yeah it is a pretty, old building," she said.

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