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Carriage House Inn damaged in fire

James Rada
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(6/5) The video is grainy, but it shows how prevention today can save a lot of heartache tomorrow. The video shows the kitchen of The Carriage House Inn early Sunday morning May 25. A fire appears and then the room fills with smoke. The fire creeps up the wall of the kitchen to the ceiling and then the sprinkler head pops. Suddenly the fire becomes nothing more than a few embers, if that. A short time later, firefighters from Vigilant Hose Company enter the kitchen to make sure the fire is out and to get the smoke out of the room.

“Videos like that are certainly hard to come by,” said Jason Powell with Vigilant Hose Company.

The reason why is understandable when it will cost the Hance Family around $30,000 to repair the damage to The Carriage House Inn.

“It’s more than what we first anticipated, but it seems as we looked closer, there was more to be fixed,” said Bob Hance, owner of The Carriage House Inn.

But it could have been worse. Without the functioning sprinkler system Hance installed in the restaurant when the second floor was renovated in 1998, the entire building could have burned.

“We were very lucky to have a sprinkler system or we would have had zero building left,” Hance said. “It went off and basically extinguished the fire.”

A National Fire Academy student was walking back to his dormitory early Sunday morning when he heard a bell ringing.

“He walked around the building trying to look in where he could,” said Jason Powell with Vigilant Hose Company. “When he saw the smoke inside the building, he called it in.”

Besides Vigilant, fire companies from Thurmont, Taneytown, Rocky Ridge, Harney and Greenmount, Pa. were alerted.

The fire started in a bin of clean rags, but there is some discussion over how it started in an empty building. The investigation is still ongoing. One possibility is that a tea light fell into the bin.

Hance thinks this is unlikely since he believes that the tea light would have had to be lit for three hours or so without anyone noticing it.

“I firmly believe the stack of rags self-combusted,” Hance said.

He said that when the rags are taken from the dryer, they are very hot and although they are clean, they still might have some grease in them. Hance believes these hot rags created enough heat to ignite the grease.

Hance also praised the efforts of local firefighters who not only cleaned up after themselves but also stopped back Sunday afternoon to check on how the Hances were doing.

“It’s a great feeling knowing these volunteers have that kind of care for their community,” Hance said.

Hance said he has received requests from both National Fire Academy and Vigilant Hose Company for copies of the fire video. The agencies believe the video can be used as a teaching tool to show other businesses the benefits of installing a sprinkler system.

The Carriage House Inn re-opened for business on June 2.

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