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Unattended cooking caused fire that displaced Hamilton Blvd. apartment residents

June 05, 2012|By DAN DEARTH and DAVE McMILLION | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com; davem@herald-mail.com
  • Fire crews work at the scene of an apartment fire Monday night on Hamilton Boulevard in Hagerstown's North End.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Unattended cooking caused a fire Monday night at an apartment building on Hamilton Boulevard in Hagerstown that sent a woman to the hospital and displaced the building’s occupants, Fire Marshal Doug DeHaven said Tuesday.

“Grease caught fire and spread to the rest of the kitchen,” DeHaven said Tuesday of the fire in a nine-unit apartment building at 908 Hamilton Blvd. “It was a typical cooking fire.”

DeHaven said a 25-year-old woman was taken to Meritus Medical Center east of Hagerstown to be treated for smoke inhalation. He said he believed the woman’s injuries were not serious.

DeHaven said Tuesday afternoon that he was not sure if the woman had been released from the hospital. Meritus does not release the condition or status of patients.

All of the residents who lived in the three-story building had to stay somewhere else Monday night because firefighters had to ensure the structure was safe, DeHaven said.

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He said the Washington County Red Cross helped some of the people find lodging, while others stayed with family or friends.

Insurance agents were expected to visit the scene Tuesday to assess the damage, DeHaven said.

Although DeHaven did not have a damage estimate, he said the fire caused extensive damage to Apt. 3, where the blaze started. There was minor smoke damage to the rest of the building, and residents were able to move back into their apartments Tuesday with the exception of Apt. 3, DeHaven said.

Monday’s fire was reported at 9:20 p.m. Firefighters used ladders to rescue five people from the building, including three from the second floor, and two from the third floor, fire officials said Monday.

Battalion Fire Chief Mark Cleck said Monday that when firefighters arrived, they were told by bystanders that people were trapped inside.

A woman who was rescued said she was alerted to the fire by people from outside the building.

“All I saw was the smoke,” Linda Eikelberger said. “I shut the door and called 911 and told them my building was on fire.”

Eikelberger said 911 dispatchers kept her on the line and told her what to do, which included putting a wet towel across the bottom of her door.

A firefighter then rescued Eikelberger through her second-floor window using a ladder, she said.

Eikelberger said her cat still was in her apartment, but a firefighter told her the animal was under a bed and was fine.

John Foster told firefighters that the grease fire started when he was cooking in his apartment, and it spread to a wood shelf.

Foster said he lives in his apartment with two children, and they were able to get out.

Cooking remains a leading cause of house fires in Maryland and the nation, State Fire Marshal William E. Barnard said in a May 30 news release.

Barnard said fire officials have made less headway in preventing cooking fires than preventing other types of blazes. People often forget about food cooking on a stove when they are distracted by situations like a phone call or children, he said.

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