6-alarm blaze engulfs building

Southwest Baltimore warehouse fire prompts evacuation

`A big explosion'

January 07, 2001|By Maria Blackburn | Maria Blackburn,SUN STAFF

A six-alarm fire roared through a two-story brick warehouse at Monroe and Eagle streets in Southwest Baltimore late last night, forcing the evacuation of more than 20 residents from neighboring homes.

Flames fed by a ruptured natural gas line leapt high above the rooflines of surrounding rowhouses after the blaze broke out about 10:20 p.m. The fire was brought under control by 12:30 this morning. No injuries were reported.

Officials said this morning that they did not know the cause of the blaze. Arson investigators were called to the scene.

"I heard a big explosion," said Jeannie Willie, 41, a resident of nearby Dover Street. "I was getting ready to go to bed."

Fire Chief Herman Williams Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley arrived at the scene early this morning. Williams said it was difficult to fight the blaze because of the gas line.

Mary Boser, president of the Monroe Community Association, identified the building as the former home of Naron Candy Co. Boser, 61, was waiting to greet evacuees at the Monroe Street United Methodist Church.

Officials said about 12 homes near the old warehouse were evacuated. O'Malley said he hoped they would be able to return to their homes by the end of the night.

The building houses a sheet metal shop, officials said. It was not clear what else, if anything, was inside.

The warehouse, which is about two blocks wide, is surrounded by brick rowhouses and a rail yard.

"We've got a lot of boarded-up houses, a lot of drug dealers and a lot of crime," said Boser, who has lived in the area since 1990. "If we don't get busy and rehab some of these buildings we're going to have more fires out here."

Naron merged with Mary Sue Candies, another Baltimore company, in 1996. The company said at the time that it planned to move production to the Mary Sue plant at 707 S. Caton Ave.

The combined company also planned to move its storage and distribution facilities to a new location in Hampden, at the Clipper Mill Industrial Park.

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