Fire forces 21 to flee apartments HARFORD COUNTY

February 02, 1993|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Staff Writer

A suspicious early morning fire yesterday caused two serious injuries, forced 21 people to flee their homes and destroyed eight apartments in Havre de Grace.

The two-alarm blaze was spotted by a Havre de Grace ambulance crew responding to an unrelated call.

About 80 firefighters from the Susquehanna Hose Company, Aberdeen, Level and Perryville responded to the first alarm at 3:59 a.m. A second alarm was sounded at 4:06 a.m. The fire was declared under control about an hour later.

A state fire marshal said the cause of the blaze at Le Havre Apartments, a brick and wooden frame building on Juniata Street between Linden Lane and Ontario Street, was suspicious.

The fire started on the upper stairway at 819 Linden Lane, said Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Allen L. Ward. "We have taken samples of what's left of the carpet and flooring, and they will be analyzed by the Maryland State Police."

Two residents of the building, Thomas Presbury and Emmett Toombs, helped a 31-year-old woman and two young children escape from one apartment.

Donna Garci, the manager of Le Havre, said Mr. Presbury and Mr. Toombs caught the two children, ages 2 years and 6 months, when their foster mother, Debbie Watters, dropped them from a second-floor window.

Ms. Watters then jumped from the window. She sustained a cut foot that required nine stitches. Her injury, along with that of another tenant who was treated for smoke inhalation, were the only serious in- juries.

Five other residents were taken for treatment of minor injuries to Harford Memorial Hospital. All were released.

James Angelucci, a former tenant of Le Havre, was asleep in a small house across Linden Lane from where the fire started. He said he heard nothing until a woman pounded on his front door.

"She was hysterical," recalled Mr. Angelucci. "The flames were shooting 30 feet high, and the wind just fanned the flames."

The Red Cross was quick to offer help to the residents, many of whom escaped the blaze with only what they were wearing as they fled the flames. Jan Brewer of the Red Cross' Aberdeen Proving Ground office said she and other volunteers were at the fire scene about 5:30 a.m.

"We have helped 11 of the 15 families and are here for the others" if help is needed, Mrs. Brewer said. "The landlord was right there to help relocate almost all of the tenants to other vacant apartments he owns. Others have moved in with relatives."

The fire victims were given vouchers to buy essential items such as groceries, beds, linens, tables, chairs and clothing, said Wayne Wigglesworth, director of the Harford County Red Cross.

The building manager, Ms. Garci, said three of the 18 units in the building were vacant. Losses were estimated at $250,000.

"Fortunately, no one was seriously injured," said Allen J. Fair, owner of the building and of about 300 other apartments in Havre de Grace. Mr. Fair said he hoped to have nearly half the tenants back into Le Havre in a few days.

"The fire wall did its job and saved half the building," he said.

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