Underground fire evacuates senior housing units


January 01, 2009|By Gus G. Sentementes and Brent Jones | Gus G. Sentementes and Brent Jones,gus.sentementes@baltsun.com and brent.jones@baltsun.com

An underground electrical conduit caught fire yesterday morning at an Elkridge senior-housing complex, leading fire officials to evacuate the building and temporarily shelter 100 residents at a nearby library, authorities said.

Howard County firefighters were called to the four-story building in the 6300 block of Rowanberry Drive about 5:30 a.m. to check on reports of a natural gas leak. Instead, firefighters found high levels of carbon monoxide in the building and immediately began relocating residents to a library across the street from the building, according to Bill Mould, a spokesman for the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue.

Mould said fire crews discovered the underground fire, which remained confined to an electrical conduit.

Aside from a burning odor, the fire did not spread inside the building, Mould said. He said one resident was transported to an area hospital because of breathing trouble.

Robert Goss, 80, lives in the Colonial Landing Park View apartment building and said the lights in his residence began to flicker shortly after 5 a.m. before going off completely. Goss said fire officials soon began evacuating residents, a scene he described as controlled despite the relative darkness.

"The emergency lights were on, so we were able to see. We went down a stairwell and were able to evacuate," Goss said. "I've been there about six years. First time something like this has happened."

Goss said he and his neighbors were taken to the Elkridge branch library and told they would remain there indefinitely.

"Everybody is doing fine," he added. "But we do have a few complainers. Nothing is perfect."

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