O'Malley, lawmakers leave Annapolis celebration amid smoke in bar

  • This 2007 photo shows the outdoor dining area of O'Brien's, where a celebration for freshmen members of the Maryland state legislature ended abruptly late Thursday when the Annapolis bar filled with smoke.
This 2007 photo shows the outdoor dining area of O'Brien's,… (Baltimore Sun photo by Glenn…)
April 09, 2010|By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz | Baltimore Sun reporters

A celebration for freshmen members of the Maryland state legislature ended abruptly late Thursday when smoke entered the Annapolis barroom in which it was held.

Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael E. Busch were among at least 50 lawmakers who left the smoky building at about 11:15 p.m., just before Annapolis fire units arrived.

Lt. John J. Bowes of the Annapolis Fire Marshal's Office said there was "no fire" at the bar, but said smoke and debris came out of the ventilation system when the heating system -- which had been off for some time -- was inadvertently turned on.

The smoky conditions occurred toward the end of a celebration for roughly 40 lawmakers who had just finished their first terms in office, a bi-partisan affair designed to build camaraderie. It included a comedic roast of the new members by Busch followed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and then brief remarks by the governor, then dancing.

The bar is about a block from the governor's mansion, and is a popular watering hole for legislators, Naval Academy midshipmen and locals.

O'Malley said he noticed the smell on the second floor. He said he stopped briefly on the first floor to listen to a band, then departed with his security detail. As the governor left, the fire alarm was sounding, and dozens of lawmakers and lobbyists followed suit, as well as Baltimore Sun reporters.

Four units arrived, and firefighters were hooking up hoses and entering the three-story building as the bar emptied.

"Here's the good news, the alarm system worked," said Del. Jim Mathias Jr., an Eastern Shore Democrat and one of the organizers of the party, said moments after exiting the bar. "The staff did an orderly evacuation."

"Everybody walked. Nobody ran," the governor said.

Other attendees of the affair included House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell and Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman.

Mathias is a former Ocean City volunteer firefighter and said he instructed bar staff to shut down the power as soon as he detected a "light haze" in the establishment.

Firefighters using thermal imaging found nothing smoldering in the walls, Bowes said, and turned off the heat. "They talked to the manager. They told him to keep it off until it could be checked by HVAC technicians," Bowes said.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea Siegel contributed to this article

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