2 injured, 40 tenants displaced in fire at Annapolis apartments

December 13, 2006|By Bradley Olson | Bradley Olson,Sun reporter

Temporary housing had been found last night for most of the 40 people, many of them low-income Salvadoran immigrants, who were displaced by a three-alarm fire at an Annapolis apartment complex yesterday morning.

A woman and her infant daughter suffered smoke inhalation in the blaze at the Admiral Farragut Apartments on Hilltop Lane, and firefighters had to rescue eight people from their homes, said Capt. Ed Hadaway, an Annapolis Fire Department spokesman.

More than 70 firefighters from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County and the Naval Academy battled the fire, which broke out shortly before 9:30 a.m. It took an hour to bring the fire under control.

Fire department officials said last night that the cause of the blaze was under investigation and no estimate on the damage was available.

At noon, windows were smashed out, ladders leaned against nearly every balcony of the eight-unit building, and a 50-foot-long hole was visible across the roof.

One man, who asked not to be identified, stood in front of an adjacent building with no jacket or shoes. He said he saw clothes engulfed in flames in his bedroom closet. He didn't know whether the fire had started there or somewhere else.

"I smelled smoke, and then went in and saw the flames and we got everyone out right away," he said in Spanish.

Bilingual firefighters and police had to be brought to the scene to talk to victims and witnesses. Hadaway said the first firefighters to arrive struggled to determine whether people were still inside.

Francisco Palacios said he rushed home from his construction job to learn that his daughter, Reina Recino, and 1-month-old granddaughter, Tanya Recino, had been taken to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Their conditions were unavailable yesterday, but Palacios said he was told by emergency workers that they would survive.

Roberto Madrid, 32, said in Spanish that he and others in the building likely lost all proof of their immigration status. Six people, including a child, had shared his two-bedroom unit.

"I'm glad to be alive," said Madrid, who works in landscaping, "but now we're afraid of losing our papers, and that's so important."

Edward Sherlock, director of the Annapolis Office of Emergency Management, said his staff, Red Cross volunteers and the management of the apartment complex worked to find temporary housing for the 16 displaced families, including eight from a second building that wasn't badly damaged.

Some were taken to apartments elsewhere in the city.

But not all the tenants realized shelter was available. Madrid said last night that he and many others had not heard from the apartment management or been able to contact them since the morning. He said he and a few others planned to stay with friends for the next few days.

A spokeswoman for Southern Management Corp., the Vienna, Va.-based property company that owns the apartments, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.


Sun reporter Anica Butler contributed to this article.

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