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Fire destroys home on George Street

July 16, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Firefighters try to contain a house fire Friday morning at 605 George St. in Hagerstown
Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

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    HAGERSTOWN -- One of the residents of a house at 605 George St. in Hagerstown that was destroyed by fire Friday morning said his first clue that something was wrong came when he heard a crackling sound in a clothes dryer that wasn't running.

    Douglas Shatzer Jr., who lived in the house his wife, Cheyenne, and their three children, ages 6, 4 and 2, said he was getting ready to go to work at Volvo Powertrain North America when he noticed the fire.

    "When I looked, I saw flames coming from the back" of the dryer, Shatzer said. "I got my kids out of the house."

    Shatzer said that as they left the house, he could see flames spreading up a curtain in the kitchen.

    Cheyenne Shatzer said the family was able to get two dogs out of the house, but they didn't know the whereabouts of two cats.

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Investigators probably won't release the official cause of the fire until early next week, Hagerstown Fire Department spokesman Mike Weller said. The last of the firefighters were getting ready to leave the scene at about 2 p.m.

Weller said all of the Hagerstown fire stations and departments from Funkstown, Halfway, Maugansville and Longmeadow were called to the scene.

"The reason we went to a second alarm was because of the proximity of the other houses," Weller said. "They are wood frame ... We tried to make an interior attack on the fire, but we were driven back by flames and intense heat."

He said three firefighters were treated for minor burns.

At least eight trucks were on the scene of the fire, which was reported at about 8:50 a.m.

Fire companies established a staging area on Salvation Army property at Wise and George streets. Some of the firefighters were given oxygen and drinking fluids, while others removed their gear in an apparent effort to cool down. Salvation Army volunteers brought the firefighters water.

The temperature in Hagerstown at 9:30 a.m. was 84 degrees, according to the website of weather observer Greg Keefer. The heat index was 88.8 degrees, the website said.

Shortly after the fire was reported, flames could be seen shooting out of the back of the two-story house. Smoke streamed through the windows and covered the neighborhood.

Efforts to raise ladders on two trucks were delayed when the ladders snapped wires, which ended up hanging from the trucks. Firefighters scattered as they realized a wire might be coming down, but they soon returned to the street.

After that, the ladders were raised, but no one went up immediately.

Early on, firefighters seemed to be concentrating on the back of the house.

Douglas Shatzer said he had gotten paid Thursday and all of his money was in his wallet. He said everything they owned was in the house.

"What am I going to do? Where are my kids going to stay? All of our clothes are in there," Cheyenne Shatzer said.

"We're just waiting on the Red Cross to come and help us," Cheyenne Shatzer said. "I have faith God has something planned for us. My house may be on fire, but my faith is still strong."

Donald Wilson, the Shatzers' landlord, said he refurbished the house shortly after he bought it about eight years ago. He said the home was insured.

"There's not much left to it," he said. "I'm not sure what we're going to do with it, depending on the insurance information."

The Red Cross arrived to assist the Shatzers a little more than an hour after the fire started. One of the Red Cross workers gave stuffed animals to the family's three children.

Mike Mowen, director of emergency service for the Red Cross of Washington County, said the organization will provide the Shatzers with food, clothing and lodging for the next three days. He said families are supposed to use that time to look for another home.

The Red Cross has set up a fund to help the Shatzers, Mowen said. People who want to donate may call the Red Cross at 301-739-0717.

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