ANNAPOLIS -- Seven people were injured and 14 left homeless when a fast-moving fire destroyed one apartment building and damaged another in the historic district of Annapolis before it was brought under control early yesterday.
"In almost no time, it blew right through the top of the building," said Annapolis Fire Capt. Albert B. Baer. "It was pretty spectacular, not something we have every day."
The five-alarm fire started in a three-story wooden building at 181 Prince George St., near the Naval Academy, when a woman in a first-floor apartment went to sleep with a candle burning on a night stand, Captain Baer said.
The candle fell onto the bed, igniting a polyurethane cushion. A man who lived in the same apartment smelled smoke, went into the bedroom and woke the woman. He called the fire department and alerted others in the building.
Fire officials would not identify the occupants of the apartment.
The fire also caused extensive damage to the roof and second floor of the wooden apartment building next door at 179 Prince George St., near the corner of East Street, and smoke and water damage throughout the building.
Four firefighters were treated and released at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis for injuries that included heat exhaustion, severe back sprain and a sprained ankle.
Three civilians also were treated and released from the medical center. The most seriously injured was an unidentified passer-by who suffered cuts on his arms and hands when he tried to break out windows.
Annapolis Battalion Chief Norman Davis said that about 25 pieces of firefighting equipment and 60 firefighters from the city, the county and the Naval Academy were on the scene at the height of the fire.
He said that when polyurethane burns, it turns to liquid. From that point, "it's just uncontrollable. . . . You can imagine a gallon of gasoline ignited in a small space."
The fire was not declared under control until 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning. The corner of Prince George and East Streets was still blocked off after sunrise, however, as one fire engine stood by in case of flare-ups.