A fire, apparently started when a tree limb fell and ripped away electrical wires from the outside of the Maryland Midland Railway company headquarters in Union Bridge, caused extensive damage to the building Wednesday.
Union Bridge Fire Chief Dave Nelson said the falling limb caused an electrical short that started the blaze, which took 20 minutes to bring under control.
Workers fled the building on North Main Street, the halfway point for the railroad that runs from Glyndon in Baltimore County to Highfield in Washington County and Walkersville to Taneytown.
Chief Nelson said firefighters had to chase the fire along electrical wires into the building. Flames damaged telephone and electrical service.
The chief said it was necessary to pull up some of the flooring to determine if the fire extended under the boards of the building, which was constructed in 1902.
Engines from the Union Bridge, New Windsor, Taneytown, Westminster, Winfield and New Midway stations were dispatched to the fire and were out of service for three hours.
Officials said damage to the building was confined to the basement and first floor.
"The blaze will not cause the railway company to curtail any of its scheduled trips and none of the company records were destroyed, but the computers connecting us with CSX were knocked out," said Bill Schaeffer, vice president of the railway company.
"The accident caused an electrical surge inside the structure that doubled the intensity of the lighting and then sent smoke throughout the building," he said.
"We have a 4-by-6-foot switchboard in the basement that lit up like fireworks on the Fourth of July."
When the firefighters started to pry up the wood floor to check for possible fire underneath, they found three layers of floorboards to chop through, Mr. Schaeffer said.
He said electrical service was still out at 11 a.m., but was expected to be restored late in the day. The office had only partial telephone service.
A fax machine was borrowed from Lehigh Portland Cement Co., and most of the normal computer operations were being handled by telephone, he said.
A deputy state fire marshal was sent to the scene to investigate the cause of the fire and estimate damage.
No damage estimate was available yesterday. No one was injured in the fire, officials said.