Westminster man killed in apartment building fire

April 25, 1991|By Daniel P. Clemens Jr. | Daniel P. Clemens Jr.,Special to The Sun

WESTMINISTER — WESTMINSTER -- A vagrant who had been ousted from an apartment house porch where he slept allegedly set a fire that destroyed the Main Street building and killed a 49-year-old resident early yesterday, investigators said.

City police arrested Charles Ray Ogline, 42, no fixed address, and charged him with first-degree murder, murder by arson and reckless endangerment.

Carvin William Hannah, who lived in a first-floor efficiency apartment, died from smoke inhalation while trying to alert other residents to the 2 a.m. blaze, fire officials said. Mr. Hannah's body was found in a hallway.

"This was a stupid incident," said Bob Thomas, deputy chief of the state fire marshal's office. "It didn't have to occur, and the person didn't have to die."

Seventy-five firefighters from nine departments in Baltimore and Carroll counties got the fire at Brook's Apartments, 88 W. Main St., under control in about 2 1/2 hours, Mr. Thomas said.

One resident, John Woodward, was taken to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center at University Hospital, where he was treated for smoke inhalation and released, police said.

Westminster firefighter James Falise was treated for smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion at Carroll County General Hospital and released.

Twelve residents of the building's six apartments were left homeless by the fire, which caused $100,000 damage to the frame structure, Mr.Thomas said.

George Drumbie, who lives on the second floor, said he was awakened by the smell of smoke.

"I though it was from a cigarette, but I opened the door to the hallway and found out it wasn't," the 54-year-old unemployed construction worker said. "Flames were flying up all over the hallway. I was hollering and screaming and gasping for air."

Another second-floor resident, Clyde Stewart, said he was awakened by the sound of an intercom buzzer linked to the first-floor entrance to the building.

Mr. Stewart said he ushered his fiance and her two stepchildren outof a side window to the roof of a small side porch and down a fire escape.

"The smoke was so heavy you couldn't breathe," Mr. Stewart said, adding that he believed it was Mr. Hannah who had been alerting himwith the intercom.

The Carroll County chapter of the American Red Cross was helping displaced residents arrange temporary housing, Mr. Thomas said.

Investigators and neighbors said Mr. Ogline routinely slept on the porch. Twice in the past month -- including once last week -- Mr. Ogline was told by building owner John A. Lescalleet to stay away, Mr. Thomas said.

Investigators believe that Mr. Ogline resented being banned from the porch and started the fire in retaliation.

"We are certain it was deliberately set," Mr. Thomas said. "We know how it was started, but we are not releasing that at this time."

Mr. Drumbie and other neighbors said Mr. Ogline and Mr. Hannah often quarreled when Mr. Hannah would ask Mr. Ogline to leave the porch, which abutted Mr. Hannah's small apartment.

"They didn't get along," Mr. Drumbie said.

But neighbors expressed surprise when told Mr. Ogline was a suspect.

"There was a lot of bad feelings," said Mr. Stewart, whose apartment was above Mr. Hannah's. "But knowing [Mr. Ogline] like I do -- accident? Yes. Deliberate? No."

"He didn't have that kind of guts," said Ernest L. Jones, owner of Ernie's Place, a tavern next to the apartment building.

About a week ago, Mr. Ogline, who neighbors said has been unemployed for more than three years, also had been asked to stay out of the bar, manager Nancy Fox said.

She said Mr. Ogline, who had frequented the bar almost daily, had become a nuisance to other customers.

Mr. Ogline was being held without bail at the Carroll County Detention Center. A bail review hearing is scheduled today.

Daniel P. Clemens Jr. is a reporter for the Carroll County Sun, a suburban edition of The Baltimore Sun.

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