Fires hit house, Howard stores Three people escape from an apartment above antiques shop.

February 20, 1992|By John Rivera and David Michael Ettlin | John Rivera and David Michael Ettlin,Staff Writers Richard Irwin and Joe Nawrozki contributed to this story. ZHC mpB

A house in Mount Washington and two antiques shops on Main Street in Ellicott City, all of which predated the Civil War, were heavily damaged by fire late last night.

Preliminary damage estimates in both fires totaled more than $500,000, fire officials said.

A two-alarm fire at the Mount Washington house at 1709 Sulgrave Ave. burned out the interior and most of the roof and rear of the 2 1/2 -story frame structure that was part of a long-term restoration project by the owner, Thomas W. Mele.

"One thing I lost in there was my 1929 Baltimore Polytechnic graduating class photograph, plus a lot of personal collectibles and fond memories that I stored when I lived there," said Mr. Mele.

The house has been vacant.

The first alarm was sounded at 10:37 p.m., and firefighters requested a second alarm at 11:23 p.m. It was declared under control at 12:53 a.m. today.

Capt. Dennis Howell, a Baltimore Fire Department investigator, placed the damage estimate at $250,000. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

At the height of the fire, Battalion Chief Michael Kernan ordered firefighters out of the building for fear that it might collapse on them.

"The fire weakened the interior beams and it was in danger of caving in," said Chief Kernan.

Mr. Mele said he purchased the house about 40 years ago and lived there until his wife died in the late 1980s. He said the original owner of the house, a Baltimore lumber company executive, built the home as a summer residence about 10 years before the Civil War.

A resident of Perry Hall, Mr. Mele said he was gradually restoring the house. He said he stopped by the building between 5 and 6 p.m. and found nothing wrong.

Howard County fire investigators today combed the remains of the adjacent buildings in the 8100 block of Main St. in the Historic District of shops, bakeries and restaurants to find the cause of a two-alarm fire that broke out shortly after 11 p.m.

Firefighters from six stations in Howard and Baltimore counties battled the fire at 8190 Main St., the Ellicott Country Store, and 8192, which houses Heirlooms, another antiques store on the ground floor with two apartments above, one of them vacant.

Three people escaped from the occupied apartment unhurt.

Deputy Battalion Chief Donald Howell said structural damage has been placed upward of $100,000 and probably will go higher after owners tally the value of the antiques lost in the blaze.

Both buildings date from the mid-1800s, Chief Howell said. A five-alarm blaze in November 1984 burned out five other Main Street businesses.

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