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Electrical problem eyed in fire

October 24, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - An electrical problem in an old section of the Women's Club caused the fire that damaged the Hagerstown landmark Sunday, a fire department official said Monday.

"It appears that some wiring had failed," said Doug DeHaven, assistant fire marshal for the City of Hagerstown.

Eighteen people who live in the building at 31 S. Prospect St. were displaced, Women's Club Manager Linda Ogilvie said. The fire was reported at about 2:40 p.m. Sunday.

Most of the tenants found other places to stay with family or friends, though the American Red Cross offered to help those who could not, she said.

According to Ogilvie, the building's roof and third floor sustained the heaviest damage, but a couple of second-floor rooms also need repairs. Some of the building's first-floor walls need to be cleaned, and some carpeting needs to be dried out, she said.

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"It's quite a big mess," she said.

According to Maryland state tax records, Women's Club Inc. owns the 11,057-square-foot building. The primary structure was built in 1838, records indicate.

DeHaven said the fire started in a concealed space in the attic where an old section of the building meets a newer section. He said the area where the fire originated contains some "very old wiring," but he said he was not sure of the age of the wiring that failed.

An alarm system that was installed less than five years ago helped alert residents of the fire, Ogilvie said. One woman, who lived on the building's third floor, saw flames and knocked on her neighbors' doors to get them out of the building, she said.

The building has no sprinklers, Ogilvie said.

Though Hagerstown Battalion Chief Randy Myers estimated Sunday night that the afternoon fire caused about $150,000 in damages, Ogilvie said the Women's Club had not determined a damage estimate.

"We're not sure about occupancy of the tenants because we've got a lot of work we need to do," she said.

While Ogilvie said a holiday bazaar set for Friday has been postponed, Jeff Wine of the Potomac Playmakers expressed hope Monday that the show could go on. According to Wine, the players' production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "Cinderella" is set to open Nov. 10.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed just hoping they'll be able to get it fixed in time," said Wine, the group's business and publicity manager.

The players will wait to see if the Women's Club, where productions are performed, can be ready in time, he said.

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