Freshman at Mount charged in 3-acre fire 11 others could face penalties as drug items found at wooded site

November 22, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

State forest rangers charged a Mount St. Mary's College freshman yesterday with setting a fire that destroyed nearly 3 acres of woodlands on College Mountain outside Emmitsburg.

Eleven other students could face disciplinary action in connection with a stash of drug paraphernalia found by rangers searching for the cause of the blaze, school officials said.

The fire was reported at 11 p.m. Tuesday by a passing motorist who saw an orange glow on the mountainside, which is adjacent to Route 15 in Frederick County.

About 60 firefighters from eight volunteer companies in Maryland and Pennsylvania brought the fire under control about 1: 30 a.m., Frederick County emergency officials said

Emmitsburg Fire Chief Jim Click said it took firefighters about 30 minutes to hike to the flames from the end of the paved road, which provides access to the Grotto of Lourdes, a Roman Catholic shrine nestled in the mountainside behind the college.

"We couldn't get hoses up to the fire so the firefighters had to use Indian tanks, carrying water on their backs, to battle the hot spots," he said.

Click said a state police helicopter and a campus security officer, who was the first to reach the blaze, helped guide firefighters to the fire scene by radio.

Firefighters used rakes to contain the flames by etching a dirt path in the rocky terrain around the fire's perimeter, he said. Fire personnel were sent home about 3 a.m.

Kevin Moore, chief ranger for the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service in Frederick and Washington counties, and Zeke Seabright, a DNR fire specialist, stayed through the night to prevent flare-ups.

At daybreak, Moore and Seabright found remnants of a campfire, which they believe is the origin of the blaze. Campus security officers reported about a dozen students were seen in the area of the fire earlier Tuesday.

The rangers said they learned that the last student to leave the campfire was not able to put out the fire and tossed smoldering logs over the hillside.

Rangers charged Peter Edward Farragut, 19, of Columbia with negligently setting a fire. College authorities are expected to wait until Farragut's charges are resolved before deciding whether disciplinary action is merited.

If found guilty, Farragut will be responsible for the costs involved in fighting the fire, said Patricia Manown, a DNR spokeswoman in Western Maryland.

She said the amount would be determined by DNR Forest Service.

The drug paraphernalia was turned over to campus security.

Frank Buhrman, a college spokesman, said school officials are conducting an investigation.

The college, he said, has a no-tolerance policy concerning drugs and any student linked to drug paraphernalia could be suspended or expelled.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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