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Firefighters respond to fire at W. Washington St. apartment building

January 03, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — It took Hagerstown firefighters about five minutes to extinguish a fire that started Tuesday morning in the walls of an apartment building at 632-634 W. Washington St., city fire officials said.

There was a smoldering fire in the walls when firefighters arrived shortly after 9 a.m., Battalion Fire Chief Mark Cleck said.

"It was around the window jamb," Cleck said. "We had to take the window out."

Cleck said at the scene that he wouldn't know the cause of the fire until the Hagerstown Fire Marshal's Office completed its investigation.

Frigid temperatures caused water from the hoses to freeze on the streets in front of the three-story-brick building. Smoke stains could be seen around an upstairs window frame in the area where the fire started. Insulation and parts of the window covered the ground to the west of the building.

Third-floor resident Daniel Lee said he was getting ready to go to bed after he got home from work when he smelled smoke.

"I was on my way to sleep, and I smelled something burning," Lee said. "I didn't see fire; I smelled smoke. I assumed it was in the wall .... I told (my son) to just call the fire department and get out."

He said the smoke appeared to be entering his apartment through the window.

Fires that originate in walls typically are caused by electrical malfunctions, Cleck said. But in this case, the fire could have started in a baseboard heater, he said.

He said alternative heat sources that people use to warm their homes are a common cause of fires during the winter.

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