Downtown Oakland fire destroys 5 businesses

February 14, 1994|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Sun Staff Writer

A five-alarm fire in downtown Oakland yesterday destroyed five businesses and left 11 people homeless in the Garrett County seat, officials said.

Almost 100 firefighters from Maryland and West Virginia battled the fire for about three hours before it was brought under control.

Damage was estimated at $1 million, said Bob Thomas, deputy chief state fire marshal.

Two firefighters were treated for injuries at Garrett County Memorial Hospital in Oakland and released.

Oakland firefighter Donald W. Sincell said late yesterday it still was unclear whether the blaze began in an apartment above the Shanghai Restaurant at 123 S. Second St. or in the restaurant kitchen.

The fire, reported about 9 a.m., destroyed six to seven apartments on the upper levels of four downtown buildings, said Mr. Sincell, who is the editor of The Republican, Oakland's weekly newspaper. No residents were injured.

The American Red Cross Garrett County chapter set up a shelter at American Legion Post 71, and businesses and churches donated food and drink for firefighters and residents, said chapter Executive Director Kathy Savage.

All residents planned to stay the night with friends or family, she said.

Robert B. Sincell, general manager of the newspaper and Donald Sincell's father, arrived at the scene shortly after the fire was reported. He said flames and smoke were visible from the roof of the building housing the restaurant, and the wind was blowing.

"The gusts were really fanning the flames," said Robert Sincell, whose office across the street from the fire was filled with smoke late yesterday.

The flames jumped from the roof of the restaurant building to the building next door, which housed the Gonder Insurance Agency, he said.

The same section downtown burned in the late 1800s or early 1900s and had been rebuilt, he said.

Oakland firefighter Mike Saunders said smoke was blowing out of the back windows of the buildings and was so thick at times that he couldn't see his hand.

Robert Sincell said, "It's been a terrible 1994. We've had more tragedy."

Four city residents died in two vehicle accidents last month. A brother and sister -- Paul J. Frantz and Pamela R. Ashby -- were killed on their way to make funeral arrangements for their mother, who had died the day before after a long illness. Later in the month, a husband and wife, Eli and Mary Yoder, died in a bus crash while visiting their daughter in Honduras, Robert Sincell said.

In addition to the Shanghai Restaurant and Gonder agency, other businesses destroyed in yesterday's fire were Southern Office Supply Inc., Vogue Beauty Salon and Hair n' Phernalia.

Maryland fire companies responded from Accident, Deep Creek, Deer Park, Gorman, Grantsville and Oakland. Frostburg sent its ladder truck, and personnel from the Southern Garrett Rescue Squad, Garrett County Air Cascade Unit and Cresaptown Air Electric Unit also assisted.

West Virginia fire companies that responded were from Bayard, Mount Grove and Terra Alta.

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