Textile-sorting company damaged in 4-alarm fire

December 25, 1997|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,SUN STAFF

A four-alarm fire caused extensive damage last night to several debris-filled, one-story garages in a mostly abandoned industrial area of Southeast Baltimore.

A textile-sorting company, the only business operating in the area at the northeastern edge of Highlandtown, suffered heavy smoke and water damage but minor fire damage, said Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres, a Fire Department spokesman.

One firefighter suffered minor injuries and was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The fire began in an abandoned garage in the 100 block of N. Janney St. and was reported at 7: 55 p.m. when a fire alarm sounded at Henry L. Blum Inc., a textile company at 2 N. Kresson St., adjacent to the garages.

The fire went to three additional alarms by 8: 23 p.m. and was declared under control at 9: 12 p.m.

Torres said the fire quickly spread to a courtyard area, where it entered the north section of the textile firm, whose single-story warehouse contained large amounts of textiles that are sorted, baled and shipped to clothing manufacturers in the United States and overseas.

Torres said Blum's sprinkler system prevented a major fire.

"Had the sprinkler system not worked, we would have had a very serious fire on our hands," he said.

At the height of the fire, which sent flames more than 30 feet into the air and filled parts of Highlandtown with heavy smoke, firefighters battling the stubborn fire inside the garages were ordered outside because they appeared ready to collapse, Torres said.

Outside, firefighters manning hoses and two aerial towers poured tons of water onto the fire while a steady rain fell. Torres said more than 100 firefighters and 25 pieces of equipment were dispatched to the scene.

Bob Kain, 60, a Blum foreman, said he was at home nearby when he was alerted by the company's fire-alarm system.

"At first I thought it was kids starting small fires," Kain said. He said the firm employs seven other workers and did not know what effect the fire would have on business.

Kain said that the garages originally were a barrel-making company that went out of business long ago, and that transients build fires in them to keep warm.

Torres said that it appeared the fire began by someone using a garage for shelter, and that its cause was under investigation.

He said that structural damage to the garages was set at $50,000 and that an estimate of damage to the textile firm was not available.

Pub Date: 12/25/97

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