Blaze destroys warehouse

Four-alarm fire contained to site

June 27, 2007|By Julie Turkewitz | Julie Turkewitz,Sun reporter

A four-alarm fire destroyed a vacant warehouse in Southwest Baltimore yesterday afternoon, despite more than 100 firefighters struggling for three hours in the sweltering heat and humidity to get the blaze under control.

Fire officials believe that no one was in the building during the fire, said Chief Kevin Cartwright, a department spokesman, and that no injuries were reported. Two firefighters were taken to Mercy Medical Center because of heat exhaustion, Cartwright said.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

The warehouse at 2147 Wicomico St. was a three-story brick building about the width of a dozen rowhouses. After the fire began about noon, flames grew high enough to be seen from several blocks away and from nearby Interstate 95.

By 2 p.m., the fire had charred the building's interior, burned through the roof and eaten away at the outside walls. About 115 emergency personnel were at the scene.

Firefighters sweated and grimaced in the 90-degree heat. "It was very, very hot," Cartwright said, "and intense."

On one side of the warehouse, a tall brick column remained and the bars of a glassless window clung to its side.

The tiny two-story houses that are across from the warehouse were not damaged by the blaze, though an afternoon breeze carried smoke and debris onto neighbors' porches.

Hiscal Forbes, 20, who lives five minutes from the warehouse, showed up at Wicomico Street before firefighters arrived and stayed to watch the blaze. "It was just flames, you couldn't even see the building," he said. "The smoke was bigger than the building."

The warehouse is owned by Southgate Limited Partnership, according to state records, though no one at the company could be reached for comment. The warehouse is part of a cluster of buildings called Southgate Industrial Park and has had multiple tenants in the past few years, including the National Can Corp., according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Several residents said the building has been abandoned for years.

The structure - or what is left of it - is surrounded by a cluster of mostly vacant warehouses of varying sizes with broken windows and graffiti-adorned walls. At least one neighboring building is being used, and a few workers waited outside by the dozens of firetrucks and emergency service vehicles.

"We can only speculate as to the cause," said Cartwright.

Julie.turkewitz@baltsun.com

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