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2 Families Displaced Following
 Apartment Fire

(11/9/2003) Area firefighters were put to the test late Saturday evening and into early Sunday morning said chief Frank Davis of Emmitsburg's Vigilant Hose Company (VHC). The rapidly spreading fire at 280 South Seton Avenue required the assistance of a number of other local fire and ambulance companies, too.

Initial reports indicated that people might be trapped in the 2-1/2 story wood-framed structure, a nearly century old residential building, that had been converted into apartments years ago. Fortunately, all 7 residents and their pets escaped with only one individual requiring hospital treatment for possible airway burns.

Just after 11:00 p.m., the Frederick County Department of Emergency Communications received and immediately dispatched emergency services units to a working incident where fire was already shooting out 3 windows on the second floor of the occupied building. Even before fire crews could advance fire hoses to the front door the fire was already extending into the attic and by the time crews had begun to spray water on the fire it was leaping from the roof.

The fire, which could be seen from quite a distance, generated heavy smoke conditions throughout the south end of town drawing many spectators. The patient transported, Clifford Mills, was treated and released from Gettysburg Hospital's Emergency Department just after 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning.

Altogether, it took firefighters 3-hours to complete the firefighting effort, which included securing the scene in the chilly nighttime temperatures. Displaced and assisted by the Red Cross and neighbors were Diane Elliott and Clifford Mills plus 2 children of the most heavily damaged apartment, and Kenneth and Patricia Baker plus their son Josh from the other affected apartment. The building owner, Sam Kugler, who lives out of the area, was notified of the fire while it was still in progress.

Deputy Maryland State Fire Marshal, Ed Ernst, determined that the fire started in wiring behind an electric baseboard heater, which was located at the end of a severely overloaded electrical circuit. Initial loss estimates were $45,000 to the structure and $5,000 to the contents. Actual losses could be more which can better be determined in the daylight. A number of other area fire companies' back-filled empty stations that had been summoned to the call.

Assisting fire and emergency medical services personnel from Emmitsburg fire (VHC) and ambulance companies were Greenmount, Thurmont, Fairfield, Rocky Ridge, Harney, Taneytown, Gettysburg, Barlow, Gettysburg Hospital's Medic 28, Frederick City / Citizens Truck Air Unit 4, Allegheny Power, the Frederick County Red Cross, and the Maryland State Fire Marshal's Office.

As all apparatus and equipment were being readied for service and all necessary reports were being completed back at the station, chief Davis said of the event, "I was very proud of how everything went and how well everyone worked together. We are just so fortunate to have the terrific assistance from others during tragic events like this one." Chief Davis went on to say that, "VHC President Tim Clarke has already authorized a $1,000 check for each family to be delivered by mid-day Sunday."

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