Fire shuts down Eubie Blake center Five are injured during blaze

June 06, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer

A late morning fire shut down the Eubie Blake Cultural Center on North Charles Street and injured five city firefighters yesterday.

The fire started in a second-floor dressing room of the building just after 11 a.m. yesterday, said Capt. Hector Torres, a Baltimore Fire Department spokesman.

Captain Torres said three firefighters were trapped briefly after entering the building through a third-floor window and had to escape through the window.

Two of the firefighters, Lt. William Hughes and John Buckingham, were treated at the scene for heat exhaustion. Three other firefighters were treated at nearby Mercy Medical Center for minor injuries and released.

The center houses the Eubie Blake National Museum and a dance studio. The museum -- named for the late, Baltimore-born, ragtime pianist, composer and longtime performer -- had not yet opened for the day when the fire started.

Twenty dance students were taking classes on the second floor at the time, but none was injured, an official for the center said.

Captain Torres estimated damage at $600,000 to the building and $100,000 to its contents.

He said the cause of the fire was being investigated.

City government owns the center and the building at 409 N. Charles St. Officials have been looking for another organization to run the facility and last year began planning to move the center to The Brokerage, at downtown's Market Place, by the end of next year.

Wayman Henry, deputy director of Baltimore's Urban Services Agency, said the center would not reopen on Charles Street.

"We'll have to find other locations for the exhibits in the meantime," Mr. Henry said.

"This building is not safe for anyone."

Several exhibits were on display, including a permanent tribute to Eubie Blake, "God Bless the Child: A Tribute to Billie Holiday" and "Bridges and Boundaries: African-Americans and American Jews."

Officials from the Eubie Blake museum and the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland, which shares the Bridges and Boundaries exhibit, scrambled to save pieces after the blaze was extinguished.

They --ed in and out of the structure as firefighters tossed charred debris from the top two floors.

"It doesn't look bad, really," said Barry Kessler, curator of the Jewish Historical Society, after he secured several photographs illustrating black-Jewish relations. The mats framing some of the pictures were dampened.

"It could have been worse."

Norman E. Ross, curator of the Eubie Blake center, said there was no damage to the pieces commemorating either Billie Holiday or Eubie Blake.

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