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Residents are displaced by apartment fire in Williamsport

May 07, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

WILLIAMSPORT - Five people were displaced from their homes Sunday when flames swept through the third floor of a downtown Williamsport apartment building, according to fire officials and a report from the Maryland State Fire Marshal.

Capt. Kevin Lewis, who was the incident commander on the scene for Williamsport Fire and Emergency Medical Services, said residents of three units planned to stay with family members after the two-alarm blaze.

"We were standing here and heard a ... pop or gunfire, and the next thing we know, we saw smoke and flames coming out of the building," said Dean Martin, an East Salisbury Street resident who stood in an alley between his home and the back of the building, watching as firefighters tended to smoldering debris.

The noise was like a shotgun blast, Martin said.

A Washington County Emergency dispatcher said more than 70 emergency workers, including firefighters from Williamsport, Halfway, Funkstown, Clear Spring, Fairplay, Maugansville and Hagerstown departments, responded to the scene after the fire was reported at about 7 p.m. Lewis said no one was hurt.

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Jennifer Crawford said she was sitting on the back deck of her East Salisbury Street home when she noticed smoke coming from the Potomac Street building. She said she got into her car and rushed to the building, where she pounded on doors to alert residents.

"I was scared somebody would be upstairs (and) wouldn't get out," Crawford said.

Several people left the building, and Crawford said she and other people at the scene reported the blaze.

Crawford said the initial smoke did not seem bad, but once she was at the building, she started hearing the crackling of flames.

"And then, by the time I got there, it started popping, and then it was just like engulfed," Crawford said.

Dozens of Williamsport residents gathered on sidewalks near the building, and firefighter vehicles closed the street. A torrent of water ran along the curbs.

The mother of a firefighter, Michelle Byers, watched from across the parking lot of Ron's Garage. Firefighting is her son's life, she said.

"I'm nervous every time he leaves the home," Byers said.

State tax records show both the apartment building and Ron's Garage have a 20 E. Potomac St. address and are owned by Ronald and Karen Eyler.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal's office was investigating the blaze, Lewis said. A report from that office indicated the fire caused $75,000 in damage to the structure.

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