ATF joins probe of explosion, fire near museum

Investigator to examine work site where officials believe blast occurred

February 19, 2004|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

A special investigator from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will join Annapolis firefighters today in trying to determine the cause of an explosion late Tuesday near the Banneker-Douglass Museum.

The Franklin Street museum - the first in the state devoted to African-American history - did not sustain any significant damage from the explosion and ensuing fire, said Battalion Chief Michael Lonergan, spokesman for the Annapolis Fire Department.

The museum is undergoing a $5.5 million renovation and expansion, and fire investigators believe that the explosion occurred at one of the construction work sites.

A forensic fire protection engineer from the ATF will help city fire investigators, Lonergan said. The ATF investigator will look at the engineering aspects of the work site, he said. As of yesterday afternoon, fire officials had no damage estimate from the explosion and fire, Lonergan said.

"It has been really hard to pin down because it's a construction site," he said.

The museum avoided fire damage because Annapolis firefighters immediately trained their hoses on a window that appeared to be damaged by the heat, Lonergan said. Their action prevented the blaze from reaching the historic building, which formerly housed the Mount Moriah Church, he said.

"The only damage inside the building is the light odor of smoke," Lonergan said. "The firefighters' actions prevented any further damage."

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