A two-alarm fire that swept through a Dundalk apartment complex early yesterday morning, destroying eight apartments and injuring one firefighter, has been ruled an arson.
Baltimore County fire officials say that the fire, reported shortly after 1 a.m. in the Town & Country Apartments in the 3100 block of Wallford Drive, apparently started in an unused basement storage locker.
Capt. Jim Korn, a county fire department spokesman, said yesterday that the fire was purposely set.
"There's no other possible explanation," he said.
Seventy-eight firefighters and 30 pieces of equipment were used to fight the blaze. One firefighter suffered minor leg injuries and was treated at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and released, Korn said.
Fire spread through the walls of three brick buildings so quickly that the first firefighters to arrive couldn't see the front doors of the apartments because of the smoke, he said.
A second alarm was sounded at 1:43 a.m. Thirty-six apartments were evacuated and firefighters had to carry two tenants to safety from second-floor units, Korn said.
Melissa McDaniel, whose rear balcony faces the fire site, said yesterday the fire sent smoke billowing into her apartment.
"It was real smoky - we smelled it in our house," said McDaniel, 18.
Korn said the fire was brought under control at 2:20 a.m. and that most of the evacuees were allowed to return to their homes.
Jim Dolphin, chief financial officer for Town & Country Apartments, said that eight apartments were destroyed by the fire.
He said that five residents were relocated to other apartments in the complex, one was relocated to another Town & County complex and one refused to accept help. One of the destroyed units was vacant, Dolphin said.
The American Red Cross provided several of the relocated residents with cleaning and laundry supplies and bed linens, said Linnea Anderson, a Red Cross spokeswoman.
Dolphin said the basement lockers where the fire started are no longer used by residents. He said that the apartments are equipped with smoke detectors and the apartment complex has the required number of fire extinguishers in hallways and common areas.
No arrests had been made yesterday. Anyone with information is asked to call the county Fire Department at 410- 887-4870.
Sun staff writer Brendan Kearney contributed to this article.