Here’s some details on the incident and the building profile from our good friend Wayne Powell with the Vigilant Hose Company of Emmitsburg and a long time former staff member of the National Fire Academy. The excerpt that was posted on Dave’s STATter911 blog: Fire units were alerted at 0559 hours to a reported building fire with people trapped in an apartment building on the Square (southeast corner) above a popular Pizza Restaurant known as Stavro’s and which many from around the country and beyond have visited. Being Easter Weekend, all NETC classes had ended yesterday. For those who admire good “truck work” – in the photos you’ll note multiple ground ladders were placed around the building in addition to the 5 aerials which were quickly summoned to the scene where 4 were actively used.
President Frank Davis of Vigilant Hose Company (the community’s all volunteer fire department // which is located 4 doors west of the fire building) was out back of the fire station, while it was still dark out, cleaning up items from a major 2-day fund-raiser, VHC’s annual Easter Seafood Bonanza, when his pager alerted for the fire – he looked up at the rear portion of the building (easily seen from the fire station’s rear parking lot) and nothing was obvious. Upon reaching the station’s front overhead doors he could see the glow reflecting on windows across the street plus smoke started coming into the firehouse as the overhead doors were going up. He quickly radioed in that he had fire showing (designated the sides, etc.) and immediately requested that a 2nd alarm be transmitted.
The fully occupied 145-year old unsprinklered (pre-existing) building had fire extending out windows on the South Seton Avenue side (Side D) and as apparatus was arriving fire began extending out the front (Side A) meaning that the main interior stairwell had already become compromised as it was heavily involved in fire. Fortunately, there were no deaths and only one injury (a civilian with a cut to the hand) and equally amazing was that the structure did not collapse during the fire as had been potentially feared by generations of area firefighters. As can be seen in the photos heavy fire conditions were present as fire personnel arrived.
The circa 1865 fire building, whose construction was completed at the end of the Great Civil War, sits at the corner of East Main Street (MD Route 140) and South Seton Avenue (the road that passes in front of NETC). The “Old Hotel on the Square” as it commonly known today went by various names over the years – Eagle Hotel, Slagle Hotel and Western Maryland Hotel – and had always been of special concern to firefighters as well as state and local fire marshals for decades due to limited egress and its construction. Used in the modern era for rental apartments, all or nearly all of those displaced today reportedly had no insurance.
Although fought via aggressive interior firefighting efforts, operations were shifted from offensive to defensive given the age of the building and the numerous structural renovations that have occurred over the years. Authorities from the Frederick County Sheriffs Office (trained in fire investigations) plus fire investigators from the Frederick County Department of Fire and Rescue Services and the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office worked together to determine the actual cause of the fire and further interactions. The building was condemned by building inspectors with further review by structural inspectors planned to determine structure stability. A civilian living in the building is credited with saving lives by her actions of quickly alerting residents.
Here’s the link to theVigilant Hose Company of Emmitsburg’s web ite for some great photo series of the incident, HERE