Apartment fire routs 25 residents

No one injured in Long Reach blaze

14 units are damaged

Columbia

November 13, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Fire ripped through a 14-unit apartment building in Columbia's Long Reach village yesterday, displacing 25 residents, fire officials said. No one was injured.

Just before noon, residents at Lazy Hollow Apartments on Cloudleap Court said they were alerted to the blaze by neighbors who made their way floor to floor in the three-story building, knocking on doors and yelling "fire, fire, fire."

Yesterday afternoon, as firefighters poured water on the collapsed, smoking roof, residents huddled outside, some fearing they would be left with what they brought outside with them - as little as a coat, purse or portable phone.

"I grabbed a jacket and a telephone and came out here," said Ben Felan, 27, who was taking an online computer science course when he heard neighbors shouting. He ran outside in his pajamas. "I was always taught, when there's a fire, just run out - and that's what I did."

Howard County fire officials said the fire appears to have started on the top floor or in the attic space. The resulting smoke and fire rendered the 14 units, 12 of them occupied, unlivable yesterday, causing about $750,000 in damage to the building and its contents, said Capt. Gary Jones.

Yesterday evening, the exact origin and cause of the fire were still undetermined, Jones said.

One third-floor resident told authorities that she saw a wisp of smoke pass by her sliding door and became concerned when her phone went dead, said Battalion Chief Sean Kelly.

Sahle Mekonnen was watching television coverage of the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, N.Y., when he and his wife, Sara Woldemichael, heard the fire alarm in the building. They opened their door on the building's third floor and saw smoke.

The couple knocked on doors, alerting residents like Kay Knight, who was off work for Veterans Day. Knight said there was smoke in her bathroom when she left the apartment.

Ginger Fitzpatrick, senior regional property manager for AIMCO, which manages the property and five others in Columbia, said the company was contacting residents of the building. Residents in the damaged apartments likely will be put up in vacant apartments in one of AIMCO's area communities, she said.

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