Blaze fuels call for fire safety Officials put damage to historic house at as much as $200,000

March 25, 1998|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

The three-alarm fire that ruined a three-story home that was Annapolis' first synagogue caused $150,000 to $200,000 in damage, city fire officials said yesterday.

Fire investigators have not determined the cause of the fire Monday night, but a tenant in the building thinks it might have been started by a candle on the second floor.

Yesterday, historic preservationists said the fire places more emphasis on work being done by the recently appointed city Commission to Study Fire Safety, which will meet today at the Taylor Avenue fire station.

"It is a devastating loss," said Anne M. Fligsten, president of the Historic Annapolis Foundation. "But it increases the urgency to study and find new ways so that this can be avoided. I don't even want to think about this happening every month what it would do to our city.

"It's not a simple problem," Fligsten said. "It takes a long time to become an historic treasure, but it takes just a second to make it all disappear. That's why we must identify these buildings, protect them and go to bat for them."

The fire was discovered shortly before 8: 30 p.m. when a passer-by saw flames coming from the second floor of the three-story building at 183 Duke of Gloucester St. and banged on the door to alert the two tenants inside. They were unaware of the blaze.

Capt. Leonard Clark, a city Fire Department spokesman, said the fire was reported at 8: 26 p.m., a second alarm was sounded 10 minutes later and a third alarm at 9: 20 p.m. He said the fire was under control by about 9: 30 p.m.

The blaze, about half a block from historic City Hall, virtually destroyed the building, which was built in the late 1800s, according to the foundation's land-use records.

Kneseth Israel purchased the building in 1910 for its first synagogue, then moved as its congregation grew.

"I don't know if anything in there, in terms of sprinklers or smoke detectors, might have prevented this loss," said commission member Geoffrey Bridges. "Fires happen. You're going to have fires. It could have spread from roof to roof. But I will say I was amazed how quickly the Fire Department got it all under control."

Pub Date: 3/25/98

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