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Electrical outlet blamed in Funkstown fire

March 17, 2009

FUNKSTOWN -- Four families were displaced by a Monday night fire at an apartment building on Funkstown's main street, said Dave Fraley, fire chief for the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.

No one was injured in the fire at 27 W. Baltimore St., but nine people and two pets were displaced, according to a release from the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

The fire, which was reported at 11:37 p.m., damaged one apartment in the wood-frame building and two other apartments were damaged by smoke, Fraley said. Firefighters had to turn off power to the building, he said.

The Fire Marshal's Office estimated the fire caused damage of about $70,000 to the building and $5,000 to its contents.

One of the residents discovered the fire, which started in a bedroom, the Fire Marshal's Office said.

The fire marshal listed the preliminary cause of the fire as an electrical outlet failure, which resulted in the ignition of stored clothing.

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The older house was remodeled into four apartment units, said Michael Mowen, director of emergency services at the American Red Cross in Washington County.

Mowen said Tuesday morning that the Red Cross provided services to residents of three of the units.

The Red Cross helped two women who were residents of the building by putting them up in a motel, Mowen said. Those two women also will be helped with clothing, food and other needs, he said.

A mother and two young children occupied another of the apartments, Mowen said.

"She made her own living arrangements but will still be aided with food and clothing," he said.

Mowen was joined at the scene by volunteers Holly Lemaster and Bruce Pope.

Fraley said the landlord told him four additional people living in one of the apartments didn't require any assistance from the Red Cross after the fire.

About 50 firefighters responded to the scene, the last leaving at about 2:30 a.m., Fraley said.

Units from Funkstown, Halfway, Hagerstown, Community Rescue Service, special operations and the air unit and rehab unit responded, a dispatcher said.

Jeff Wallech was listed as the owner of the building, the fire marshal said. A Washington County property search listed Wallech's address as Mercersburg, Pa.

-- Marlo Barnhart and Erin Julius

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