Investigators seek cause of weekend fire 23 are left homeless

6 apartments burned

Owner plans to rebuild

Authorities trace source to one unit

August 04, 1998|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

Investigators will continue searching today for the cause of a fire that nearly destroyed an apartment building in downtown Taneytown early Saturday and left more than 20 people homeless, authorities said.

Yesterday, the state fire marshal's office interviewed the 15 residents who were in the three-story frame building at 40 E. Baltimore St. when the fire began, said W. Faron Taylor, deputy HTC state fire marshal.

Police dog units were taken to the scene to search for accelerants -- such as gasoline -- that might have started the fire, he said.

Investigators have determined that the fire originated in Apartment 7, but the cause is unknown, Taylor said.

Oliver Glass, who has owned the building since 1986, said a private fire investigator also is expected to inspect the damage.

The building, which contained eight apartments and two businesses, suffered extensive fire, heat, smoke and water damage. Six apartment units were destroyed. Damage to the building and contents was estimated at more than $100,000. The fire was reported at 5: 14 a.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, neighbors cleaned up sections of the roof, window screens and other debris, with the smell of charred wood and burned rubber still strong. A pile of furniture, clothing and blackened magazines spilled from the heavily damaged midsection of the building.

The two businesses that occupy the front section of the building -- Tina's Barber Shop and Kim's Massage Therapy -- were not heavily damaged. Glass said they were open for business Saturday.

About 60 firefighters from Taneytown, Harney, Union Bridge, Emmitsburg and Adams County, Pa., responded to the fire and battled the blaze for more than an hour before bringing it under control.

No one was injured

No injuries were reported.

"At that hour of the morning you expect the worse," said Brett E. Six, chief of Taneytown Volunteer Fire Department. Six credited the teamwork of the many fire departments for getting the fire under control quickly.

The Red Cross provided food and clothing to 23 people left homeless. All the victims have found temporary housing with family and friends, said Payton Goldman, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross. Many residents did not have insurance and will need help buying furniture and other necessities, she said.

This is the second fire at the apartment building. In 1990, a 3-year-old boy died of smoke inhalation after he did not escape the burning building. Six said clothes left to dry on a space heater caused the 1990 fire.

Scott Chronister, who lives next door, recalled being awakened by a neighbor a little after 5 a.m. Saturday.

"There were flames coming out of the windows," he said.

Automobile burned

The fire did not damage Chronister's home, but it destroyed his girlfriend's 1990 Pontiac Grand Am parked beside the apartment building.

The heat melted the paint and front wheel off the passenger side of the vehicle. Chronister had planned to replace the fuel pump on the car last weekend. Now, he said, he will probably help his girlfriend shop for another car.

Glass was busy surveying his losses Sunday. He walked through the building with a contractor to estimate the damage. Glass said the fire will not stop him from building again.

"There's no doubt in my mind," he said. "We're going to figure out how to do it."

Pub Date: 8/04/98

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