Cumberland Times-News

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December 10, 2012

Frostburg fire cause still unknown

Investigators seek witness information; two victims suffer smoke inhalation

FROSTBURG — The Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office continued Monday to investigate the cause of the Saturday night fire that heavily damaged an apartment building at 14-16-18 Broadway and caused damage to the Triangle Printing Company that is housed in the same structure.

Two occupants of the first-floor apartment where the fire originated were taken to the Western Maryland Regional Medical Center following initial treatment at the scene at the rear of the building by Frostburg Area Ambulance personnel.

The injured occupants were able to exit the building on their own when the fire broke out at about 8:30 p.m.

“The female occupant suffered minor burns and smoke inhalation and was released later that night by the hospital. The male occupant suffered smoke inhalation and was being kept in the hospital at that time for observation of his injuries,” said Deputy Chief State Fire Marshal Jason Mowbray.

No information was available concerning the number of occupants who were displaced by the fire. The American Red Cross was notified of the incident by the Allegany County 911 center.

Firefighters were able to put a quick stop on the fire after finding flames shooting from the front ground-floor apartment and extending to the Mechanic Street side of the two-story brick building.

As the investigation continued Monday, Mowbray urged anyone who may have information about the incident to come forward.

“Given the time of the evening, and the heavy automobile and pedestrian traffic on Broadway Street, investigators believe there may be witnesses to the early stages of the fire prior to the arrival of the fire department.

“Anyone with information, photos or video of the early stages of the fire is asked to contact the fire marshal’s Cumberland office at 301-729-5021,” said Mowbray.

Investigators conducted preliminary interviews with the victims and additional interviews were planned for Monday, according to Mowbray.

The investigation reportedly included utilization of a fire marshal office accelerant detection canine team that responded to the scene.

Mowbray said no inferences should be made from the use of that canine team in efforts to learn the source of the fire. “It’s just another tool in the box that we use,” he said.

The fire was confined to the first-floor apartment after originating in the living room. Smoke and water damage occurred throughout the building.

Preliminary estimates of damage from investigators placed the loss at $50,000 to the structure and $5,000 to its contents.

The building is owned by Patrick Atkinson.

Dave Roche, who has operated Triangle Printing at 18 Broadway for the past 38 years, said he returned home Saturday night to a full answering machine with messages alerting him to the fire.

“We were here until about midnight. Right now, I’m waiting for the insurance adjustor and the gas company. They turned off the gas and we don’t have any heat. I have the front door open trying to air it out.

“I’m trying to clean up my bathroom. The bathroom is covered with soot,” said Roche, who suffers from respiratory ailments and wore a breathing mask Monday inside his business.

Roche said he did not know if he would be staying in business. “I’d like to retire but I didn’t want to go out like this. Right now I’m just trying to determine the damage. My greeting cards and teacher supplies all smell like smoke and nobody wants that,” he said.

The fire also caused damage to the field office of the Braddock Construction Company that was located in the ground floor space at 16 Broadway.

Roche kept the incident in perspective. “We’re lucky no one was seriously injured,” he said.

Forty firefighters from Allegany and Mineral counties responded and controlled the fire in 35 minutes.

The building was not protected by a sprinkler system, according to the fire marshal’s office.

The investigation included the assistance of Cumberland Fire Marshal Lt. W. Shannon Adams of the Cumberland Fire Department.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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